It was never a question of whether or not Inbee Park would secure her third straight major of the season, it was more a matter of how many would she would win by. Park wasn’t perfect in Sunday’s final round at Sebonack, but she didn’t need to be — she posted a two-over 74 to capture the U.S. Women’s Open by four strokes over I.K. Kim.
“I had a four-shot lead going into Sunday, but you just never know what’s going to happen out there,” said Park when asked about her emotions following Saturday’s round. “I was really nervous last night at home. Everywhere I was really nervous, but as soon as I was on the golf course, it somehow made me really feel calm and somehow it really made me concentrate on golf.
“I played so good this week. I’m very proud of myself. I just don’t know what I did. I mean, I knew what I was playing for, but if I thought about it for once, I probably wouldn’t be able to do it. It’s a great record, and it hasn’t been broken for over 50 years. I’ve done it, and I just can’t believe it.”
She’s the first player since Babe Zaharias in 1950 to win three consecutive major championships in the same calendar year, which obviously is no easy feat.
“I’ve won a lot of golf tournaments,” said the 24-year-old South Korean. “I’ve played fantastic golf over the year. It’s really scary to think what I’m really capable of doing. I don’t know what my limit is. Every day I try to play my best, and every day I try to break my record.”
Park, who deserves all the credit in the world, isn’t the most charismatic player, nor is she the most glamourous, but she is by far the most unflappable golfer on the planet, not to mention the best.
Now, Park looks to capture the Grand Slam (or what do you even call five majors?), technically meaning she’d have to win the British Women’s Open *and* the newly-added fifth major on the LPGA this year, the Evian Masters, of which, mind you, Park is the defending champion. If she were to win the British, I’m pretty sure most of us would consider that being enough to count as the “Grand Slam.” Even Park thinks so.
“I won Evian last year,” said Park, smiling. “It wasn’t a major, but I won Evian. So I think the British Open is one I have to win. So it would be great if I could win five, but I still think four means a grand slam. I think four out of five is very big.”
No, you slacker! You must win all five in one year! But, seriously, how does Park maintain such composure?
“I think it’s because I feel the happiest when I’m at the golf course,” she said. “And I feel calm when I’m on the golf course. I think I’m just a much better person when I’m on the golf course.
“Outside the golf course, I feel the pressure and I feel what everybody else is feeling. But on the golf course, it’s just the golf ball and clubs. And when I have that, it just puts a lot of pressure off of me.”
She’s absolutely amazing. I had goosebumps watching her walk up the 18th and I couldn’t believe she missed that eight-footer for birdie — she always makes those. Again, well done and congrats to Inbee Park!
Obviously, Park was no. 1 in today’s Top Five (and probably for the entire year — you can’t beat three majors in a row! Well, unless Justin Rose wins the Open and the PGA). Here are the other Top Four:
2.) I.K. Kim: Every time Park made a bogey, Kim didn’t take advantage of those uncharacteristic mistakes and instead of birdieing, she’d match it with a bogey herself. So, she couldn’t gain any momentum, but as I’ve been saying all week, I love I.K. and if you don’t, you’re probably a horrible, miserable person.
“(Park) said she was really comfortable, and I think I made her really comfortable,” said Kim. “I shouldn’t have done anything like that, but I’m really pleased with how I played on the back nine.”
This is her fifth top-10 at the U.S. Women’s Open. She’ll raise that trophy someday, hopefully. This time, Park was just too damn good.
“It’s difficult because you know what you have to do, because I want to play my game, but you can’t really avoid how many shots I’m behind and things like that,” said Kim, who finished at four-under for the championship. “So it’s difficult. But I just played with everything I’ve got, and that’s all I can really do.”
3.) The Asians: So Yeon Ryo placed third to round out the top 3, and it was her birthday yesterday, so I’m sure this isn’t a bad present. Players of Asian descent have now claimed the last ten majors, with South Koreans capturing 7 of the last 9, and of course, Park has the last three. I can’t wait for the xenophobic comments about “all these damn Asians winning in America!” — if you don’t realize how ironic and hypocritical that comment is, then, well, God bless. But guys, guess what, there’s a simple solution if Americans want to win more: Practice harder and play better.
4.) Paula Creamer and Angela Stanford: These two tied for fourth, taking Low-American honors. Creamer was the last American to win the U.S. Women’s Open in 2010. Since then, she’s been win-less, but she played pretty well — despite an unfortunate double-bogey on the front nine, she battled and shot even-par in tough conditions on Sunday.
“We are a global sport,” said Creamer. “I mean, golf is obviously played all around the world. But when you have your National Championship, of course, everybody in America is rooting for an American. And that’s when we go over to the British Open, it’s the opposite for that one and that kind of thing. We’re used to that.
“You know, you still can’t take away what Inbee’s doing. She’s just playing so good. It’s elevating the game right now. You just have to keep on going with her and we’ll see what happens.”
Low-Am: Casie Cathrea deserves her own category and a special shout-out for shooting two-under 70 to beat out teen phenom Lydia Ko by two strokes for the Low Amateur Silver Medal and to share Sunday’s low-round honors. Cathrea, who is only 17, committed to Oklahoma State in fall 2011, and will finally play as a freshman in August. “I was just trying to stay in my own bubble, not get ahead of myself,” she said. “I know I had the tendency to do that earlier this week. I tried to just stay in my own little mindset.” Which is always easier said than done, especially when the wind is swirling around you at 20mph.
(Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports)