Park tees up for record
Korean golfer Inbee Park is on the brink of a remarkable sports achievement, though few realise it.
Park, 25, has won all three women’s golf majors this year – the Kraft Nabisco, the LPGA and the US Open.
Next weekend she lines up for the British Open at St Andrews. Victory there would make her the first female golfer to win four majors in a year.
A year ago Park was 26th in the world and trailed a dozen of her countrywomen in the rankings, so she has made dizzy progress.
The women’s pro golf scene is not as high-profile as the men’s, but Park’s dominance this year still makes her a superstar.
Women’s pro golf has taken forever to get itself organised, and it’s not quite there yet.
Men’s golf world rankings were introduced in 1986 (still inordinately late compared to tennis, which was producing world computer rankings by 1973), but the women didn’t get rankings until 2006.
Not only that, but the women’s majors have been fluid.
In men’s golf, the Masters, the US Open, the British Open and the PGA Championship have been the four majors since 1934.
In women’s golf, there have been as few as two majors in some years. This year there will be five, with the addition of the Evian Championship in France in September. That’s surely one too many.
The muddled history of women’s majors – eight events have had major status at one time or another – has encouraged golf followers to disregard the women’s scene. That’s a pity. There have been some fantastic women’s golfers. Babe Zaharias, a multiple Olympic athletics gold medallist in 1932, won all three majors played in 1950. In 1974, Sandra Haynie won both the majors played that year.
Pat Bradley, Juli Inkster, Annika Sorenstam, Louise Suggs and Mickey Wright have all won four different majors. Australian Karrie Webb has won five.
Though Patty Berg won 15 majors and Wright 13, Sorenstam is regarded as the greatest women’s golfer.
The Swede emerged in 1994 and was the world’s best player for the next decade.
At times she jostled with Webb and Korean Se-Ri Pak for majors honours, as Jack Nicklaus battled it out with Gary Player and Arnold Palmer when they were the big three of the men’s game.
After Sorenstam’s retirement, Mexican Lorena Ochoa ruled women’s golf from 2007 to 2010, and then Taiwanese Yani Tseng and Stacy Lewis.
But Park is a class apart now, the undisputed queen of golf.
She turned pro in 2006 and caught everyone’s attention by winning the US Open in 2008. Thereafter her game declined and she struggled to get inside the world’s top 20.
This year she’s turned it all around.
Her putting makes her special.
She isn’t a great driver, but is proof of the truism, ‘‘Drive for show, putt for dough’’.
Putting is where the best pros get the job done.
World golf lately has been full of the exploits of Adam Scott, Justin Rose and Phil Mickelson, and tales of Rory McIlroy’s demise and Tiger Woods’ struggle to win another major.
It’s time to take a breather from men’s golf for a few days and salute a giant of the women’s game.
Third title: Inbee Park celebrates her third major title of the year after winning the US Open.