Inbee Park, the unflappable 24-year-old South Korean who has lived in Las Vegas since the age of 12, calmly blew everyone away in the U.S. Women’s Open held at the Sebonack Golf Club in Southampton this past week.
With rounds of 67, 68, 71, and 74, Park finished at 8 under par, four strokes ahead of I.K. Kim and seven ahead of So Yeon Ryu for a Korean sweep. They were the only ones to best par in the field of 156 who began play last Thursday. Paula Creamer and Angela Stanford, Americans, were tied with Jodi Ewart Shadoff of England for fourth, nine strokes off the pace. Na Yeon Choi, the defending champion, finished 17th, at 295.
It was a historic moment for Park, who thus became the first female golfer since Babe Didrikson Zaharias to win the first three majors of the year, and put her in line to become the first golfer, male or female, to complete a Grand Slam in one year at the British Women’s Open at St. Andrews next month.
It was kind of scary to think what she might be capable of, Park said, with a smile, at the awards ceremony. Certainly, she was scary good at Sebonack with her brilliant putting, holing out sometimes from the edges of the undulating greens. A 30-foot birdie putt Saturday on the par-4 14th following three uncharacteristic bogeys was perhaps her signature moment.
“I thought that putt was going to be short, going into the wind,” she was reported as saying in a Newsday account. “I think I was just lucky there.”
“She’s on a roll — there is nothing you can even do about it,” Brittany Lincicome told Newsday’s John Jeansonne.
Na Yeon Choi, whose nickname is NYC, said at Media Day in May that Sebonack, the Jack Nicklaus-Tom Doak-designed course, which is only seven years old, would require 72 holes of patience. And indeed she was right.
John Kernell, this writer’s golf expert, who played Sebonack on Media Day, carding an 81 — double-bogeying the last two holes “because [he] had to get to East Hampton for a Little League game” — said following the awards ceremony, during which Park was given a check in the amount of $585,000, “It’s pretty much as I told you — the greens were the course’s defense and the winner finished at 6 to 12 under par. If she finished at 9-under, it would have split my number.”
“Inbee Park,” Kernell continued, “mastered the greens and she won the U.S. Open as a result. And she hit the ball beautifully as well. She was calm and cool, not nervous. She knew exactly what she was doing. She’s great, she’s great.”
While the wind blew the last two days, “the greens weren’t unruly,” said Kernell, who added that “if it had been sunny and dry and windy, the U.S.G.A. might have lost control of them. But the humidity and moisture kept them playing at a fair speed.”
“She won the Open in 2008, but then she got to a point where she almost wanted to quit the game. She’s got an incredible mind-set.”