Inbee Or Not Inbee: That Is The Question

Where better for the 25-year-old Inbee Park to be going for history than St Andrews, the Home of Golf. If she can win this week’s Women’s British Open, she will become the first professional golfer – male or female – to bag a grand slam of majors in one season. Back in 1908, Old Tom Morris rejoiced when the first women’s event of any kind – a British Ladies Amateur – was held on his beloved links. He had thought it never would happen in his lifetime and it only just did: He died two days later. Heaven knows what Old Tom would have made of this week’s cosmopolitan selection of stars. Yet it is not just the golfers of his day who would have been wide-eyed at the prospect of a 25-year-old Korean one day featuring at the centre of the golfing universe; there was no hint of any such happenings as recently as the 1960s. Se Ri Pak led the way among the Koreans, winning five majors. She inspired Inbee, who captured her first major, the US Open, in 2008. Queen Bee, as she is fondly labelled, resumed winning at the 2012 Evian Masters and has won seven times since. Her success is down to a strong mind, an unhurried, unchanging swing and a putting stroke that conjures more magic than anyone else’s. As a child, Inbee copied Karrie Webb’s putting method and changed to the same putter as the great Australian. More recently, she has studied Ai Miyazato and picked up on her rhythm almost as you would a song. It was at the 2012 Evian that she first started potting the impossible. None of her putts hovered on the edge of the cup; each headed inexorably for the centre of the hole and was the perfect pace. There was a wickedly swirling 25-footer at the 14th that stood out above the rest. She had missed the green and, since she had little hope of stopping her approach anywhere close to the pin, the door was open for Stacy Lewis. Inbee, a gentle soul in so many ways, slammed it in her face by getting down in two. When it came to the 18th and she needed two putts from 30 feet to win, she ended things with one. There must have been times, in the past few weeks, when Inbee herself would have liked to plop into the depths of the hole. “It is as if the whole world is watching me,” she said, shyly. “It feels really awkward seeing my face on TV everywhere and seeing my name in newspapers every day. “I felt a little bit of pressure at the US Open but I handled it very good, so that gives me a lot of confidence coming into the British.” (For the record, she won the US Open by four whereas, in her previous major, the LPGA, she had to survive a playoff with Catriona Matthew.) Just as Pádraig Harrington has always felt it therapeutic to use the press as a sounding board, so Inbee elaborated on what was going through her head. “I mean, you’re always going to feel the pressure. How could you not in the kind of situation I’m in?” Having finished second at Hoylake a year ago, she has no fear of links and, indeed, has been schooled by her fiancé, Gi Hyeob Nam, in the art of keeping the ball down in the wind. “My ball flight,” she explains, “has gotten stronger and lower and I play much better in the wind than before.” Inbee fell in love with St Andrews when she finished 14th in the Open of 2007.


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