Inbee Park, with 2 major titles in 2013, on top of golf world heading into US Women's Open

  • Article by: RACHEL COHEN , AP Sports Writer
  • Updated: June 27, 2013 - 6:59 AM
hide

Inbee Park

Photo: Gary Wiepert, Associated Press

CameraStar Tribune photo galleries

Cameraview larger

SOUTHAMPTON, N.Y. — Inbee Park might not be on the cusp of history if not for her struggles with her driving.

After winning the 2008 U.S. Women's Open, Park went more than four years before her next victory. She kept pushing her tee shots right, but she figures that's why her short game got so good.

It's carried her all the way to a No. 1 ranking. Park has won the first two majors of the year and her last two tournaments.

"I was just hitting it everywhere. I had to get it up and down from everywhere," Park said.

At this week's U.S. Women's Open at Sebonack Golf Club on Long Island, Park will seek to become the only player to win the first three majors of the year when there were at least four majors in a season.

She'll take on a course hosting its first major. Sebonack, designed by Jack Nicklaus and Tom Doak, opened in 2006 with views of the Great Peconic Bay. Its big bunkers and undulating greens offer a links-style challenge. The fairways are broad, but just landing the ball in them may not do much good; placement could be crucial.

"It feels like the last few U.S. Opens, it's all been how straight you can drive the ball, and that is kind of who has won the tournament," said second-ranked Stacy Lewis. "So I like this year that you don't have to drive it perfect off the tees, but you've got to play smart into the greens."

Park has relied on her clutch putting to win five times already this season and seven of her last 23 starts dating to last year. She suspects her strong short game was the one silver lining to her longtime struggles off the tee. She estimates she was missing nine or 10 greens per round, so she spent a lot of time trying to save par.

Her drives straightened out, Park has gone from saving pars to making birdies.

Some of her struggles were bad habits, but some of it was undoubtedly pressure. She remembers how she would spend much of Thursday and Friday worrying about whether she'd make the cut. If she hit a bad shot, she'd immediately start fretting about carding a bogey. After becoming the youngest U.S. Women's Open champ at age 19, she didn't win again until last July's Evian Masters.

"When you don't know how to handle the pressure, it's not a good feeling at all," she said. "Your heart's pumping; you think all the negative things."

Working with a mental coach, she's learned how to empty her head of those thoughts. Away from the course, it's easy to relax.

Park's fiance travels with her on tour, and she has friendly rivalries with fellow players like defending U.S. Women's Open champion Na Yeon Choi.

After Park won the LPGA Championship earlier this month, the two South Koreans took some time off at Choi's home in Orlando. They made kimchee soup and Korean barbeque, played tennis and went bowling.

"I think she's really comfortable with her life right now," Choi said. "I think she's very happy. She never thinks negatively. Everything is thinking positively."

Park returned to competition to take another title at the NW Arkansas Championship last week. Mickey Wright in 1964 is the only player to win the U.S. Women's Open after victories in her previous two tournaments.

Choi's title last year started a streak of four straight major championships by South Koreans. An American hasn't won a major since Lewis at the 2011 Kraft Nabisco Championship, a drought of nine tournaments.

Two-time champ Juli Inkster, who turned 53 on Monday, will be playing on a special exemption in her 34th U.S. Women's Open, which breaks the record held by Marlene Hagge.

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

ADVERTISEMENT

Team Irvin 32 FINAL
Team Carter 28
Miami 96 FINAL
Chicago 84
Oklahoma City 98 FINAL
Cleveland 108
Dallas 106 FINAL
New Orleans 109
Indiana 106 FINAL
Orlando 99
LA Clippers 120 FINAL
Phoenix 100
Minnesota 100 FINAL
Atlanta 112
Detroit 110 FINAL
Toronto 114
Milwaukee 95 FINAL
San Antonio 101
Boston 111 FINAL
Golden State 114
Washington 117 FINAL
Denver 115
Houston 99 FINAL
LA Lakers 87
Team Toews 17 FINAL
Team Foligno 12
South Florida 53 FINAL
Connecticut 66
Boston College 64 FINAL
Georgia Tech 62
Virginia 50 FINAL
Virginia Tech 47
Indiana 70 FINAL
Ohio State 82
Stony Brook 61 FINAL
Binghamton 54
Cincinnati 56 FINAL
UCF 46
Maine 70 FINAL
Hartford 61
Monmouth 64 FINAL
Manhattan 71
Fairfield 67 FINAL
Marist 73
Rowan 48 FINAL
Princeton 96
St Bonaventure 48 FINAL
Rhode Island 53
Duke 77 FINAL
St Johns 68
Saint Peters 69 FINAL
Siena 55
Drake 40 FINAL
Wichita State 74
Vermont 61 FINAL
UMass Lowell 50
Seton Hall 57 FINAL
Butler 77
NJIT 72 FINAL
South Alabama 55
Northern Iowa 54 FINAL
Illinois State 53
Louisville 80 FINAL
Pittsburgh 68
UMBC 55 FINAL
Albany 69
Niagara 64 FINAL
Iona 87
Notre Dame 81 FINAL
NC State 78
Belmont 63 FINAL
Tennessee St 55
Creighton 50 FINAL
Villanova 71
Northwestern 67 FINAL
Maryland 68
Washington 56 FINAL
Utah 77
Senior-North 34 FINAL
Senior-South 13
Seton Hall 99 FINAL
Georgetown 85
St Johns 69 FINAL
Villanova 81
Arkansas 58 FINAL
Florida 72
Maine 56 FINAL
UMBC 42
Vanderbilt 55 FINAL
Alabama 52
Lafayette 60 FINAL
Lehigh 65
UCF 61 FINAL
SMU 57
Utah 51 FINAL
Washington 63
James Madison 73 FINAL
Coll of Charleston 53
Delaware 56 FINAL
Drexel 61
Hofstra 56 FINAL
William & Mary 57
Hartford 58 FINAL
Albany 82
Binghamton 54 FINAL
Stony Brook 67
Towson 63 FINAL
UNC-Wilmington 71
Wake Forest 80 FINAL
(17) Florida State 110
Georgia Tech 68 FINAL
Virginia 62
(22) Georgia 51 FINAL
(5) Tennessee 59
Drake 79 FINAL
Evansville 62
Iona 80 FINAL
Canisius 62
Fairfield 33 FINAL
Monmouth 59
Northwestern 75 FINAL
Penn State 76
Wisconsin 71 FINAL
Michigan State 77
Ohio State 79 FINAL
Purdue 71
Northern Iowa 57 FINAL
Indiana State 55
Butler 58 FINAL
Xavier 54
Creighton 93 FINAL
Marquette 75
Providence 42 FINAL
DePaul 90
Northeastern 77 FINAL
Elon 80
(2) Connecticut 96 FINAL
Cincinnati 31
Oregon 78 FINAL
Arizona 81
Bradley 46 FINAL
Loyola-Chicago 45
NC State 49 FINAL
(23) Syracuse 66
(7) Maryland 84 FINAL
Indiana 74
Illinois State 35 FINAL
Missouri State 58
Colorado 68 FINAL
Washington St 73
Tulane 45 FINAL
South Florida 64
(14) Kentucky 83 FINAL
Missouri 69
(9) Oregon State 68 FINAL
(13) Arizona State 57
Vermont 63 FINAL
UMass Lowell 72
Iowa State 58 FINAL
(8) Texas 57
Southern Ill 61 FINAL
Wichita State 80
(15) Duke 74 FINAL
(12) North Carolina 67
Miami-Florida 55 FINAL
(4) Louisville 68
(21) Minnesota 61 FINAL
(25) Rutgers 66
California 72 FINAL
UCLA 57
(11) Stanford 71 FINAL
USC 60
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close