World no. 1 Inbee Park continues to dominate the women’s golf circuit, posting a superb five-under 67 at Sebonack to take the clubhouse lead in the first round of the U.S. Women’s Open.
Park has already won five times — yes, FIVE — this season, including the first two majors.
Concerned about potential thunderstorms in the Hamptons on Thursday — factoring in the possibility that not everyone would finish the first round and high winds are expected for Friday — the USGA did something crazy and set the course up relatively easy.
Park described the setup as “generous,” which is usually unheard of when it comes to the USGA’s championships. Of course, she wasn’t complaining.
“I played very good today,” said the 24-year-old native of South Korea. “I hit the ball very good, didn’t miss many fairways or greens. I was able to take some pins today where the USGA was a little generous on us today. A lot of tees were moved up.
“So instead of hitting like 5-irons, we were hitting 9-irons, and that was making the course much easier. I was actually able to go for some pins and give myself a lot of opportunities today. Yeah, I made a lot of putts and didn’t leave much out there.”
In other words, she was able to play aggressively instead of defensively, which is usually the approach players have to take at U.S. Opens. (I’ve played neighboring NGLA around eight times, including this morning — for research/reporting purposes, obviously — and I’ve never seen conditions this calm, but the wind has picked up a little this afternoon.)
With strong winds expected on Friday, Park took advantage of the ideal scoring conditions. And don’t worry, she expects that we’ll see plenty of crazy hard golf over the weekend.
“I think on the weekend they’ll definitely go difficult,” said Park. “I think with this golf course, they can do so much on this golf course. You could play a totally different golf course tomorrow and they can do so much with the tee boxes and pin placements. You just can’t expect anything from them. They can do whatever they want.”
Indeed. The course even has sub-air installed on the greens, which means they can control the speed to precision. (Now why do they need sub-air when the course is sand-based and the wind dries things up pretty quickly? BECAUSE THEY CAN.)
Park could have even gone lower than 67 today, but she missed a few makable birdie putts. However, the hole pretty much looks like a massive toilet bowl to her.
Asked when the last time she felt like she couldn’t make a putt, she paused to think before saying, “Maybe like a 30-footer. No, I’ve been feeling quite confident over the putts I guess the last couple of years.
“I had a little struggle with my putting in Shop Rite this year in May and maybe in the Bahamas. After that, I really haven’t felt that bad.”
I’d say. Park has won her last two events, last week’s Walmart NW Arkansas Championship Presented by P&G, along with the second major of the year, the Wegmans LPGA Championship.
“I do have a lot of confidence in myself at the moment,” said Park when asked if she’s been “in a zone” all year. “I mean, the way I’m playing, the way things have been going, the way I’ve been getting the luck, I think I am in the zone. I mean, I’ve been playing my best in my career at the moment. Yeah, I mean, I really just want to enjoy the moment.”
She’s definitely doing a fine job of that.
Caroline Hedwall shot a solid four-under 68, while six players have come in with two-under 70s, including Natalie Gulbis. 14-year-old Nelly Korda posted an impressive one-over 73 despite a triple-bogey on no.7 and a double-bogey on no. 14.
“I didn’t really get that nervous on the first hole which was a big surprise because I thought I was going to get really nervous,” said Korda, who’s older sister Jessica is also playing this week. “But I shot one over par with one double and one triple, so it was definitely some upanddowns, but I finished well, so it was good.”
Meanwhile, Michelle Wie shot eight-over 80, but was able to take away the positives after a strong finish.
“Everything that could have gone wrong, went wrong today, but I’m proud of myself for making four birdies in the last five holes,” said Wie. “So, hopefully I can get a couple more birdies tomorrow.”
I wanted to do a “Know Your Asians” on Park, which would have been more fitting, like, say, yesterday, so thought I’d share a video of her swing — though it’s not conventional, it certainly gets the job done!