Sports Outside the Beltway

Juggernaut- Inbee Park wins the US Open

The #1 ranked player in the world did it again. With a four-shot lead going into the round, Inbee Park cruised to a four-shot win. Park has won the last three tournaments, the last three LPGA major championships, and every LPGA major played in 2013.

Park opened the final round with her closest challenger being In-Kyung Kim. Inky, my nickname for In-Kyung, was one of my picks for this week and one of my favorite players. I was pulling for her but Inky didn’t get closer than three shots to Inbee. No other golfer contended and Park won without much of a struggle.

Lets put Park’s win in perspective.

She has joined Se Ri Pak as the only South Korean golfer to win three different LPGA major championships. Pak has won five majors in her career. Park has four triumphs. Her first was the 2008 US Open.

Park has won the last three LPGA tournaments played. She has won ALL three LPGA major championships this year. The last time a LPGA golfer won three majors in one year was Pat Bradley in 1986. Mickey Wright also won three major championships in 1961.

The only other golfer besides Park to win the first three major championships in a year was Babe Didrickson Zaharias in 1950! 1950 was the LPGA Tour’s first ever season.

Tiger Woods is the last golfer to win three majors in one year. He did it in 2000. Woods won four consecutive majors. The last three of 2000 and the 2001 Masters. It was titled the ‘Tiger Slam’.

In 1961 and 1962, Mickey Wright won four straight majors but I might be about the only person to note it in recent memory. She won the last two majors of 1961 and the first two of 1962.

Ben Hogan won three majors in 1953.

Bobby Jones remains the only golfer to complete a Grand Slam. He did it in 1930. Note- Hogan won all three major championships he played in that year. The British Open and PGA Championship at that time were played at almost the same time. Hogan won the British Open but couldn’t compete in the PGA.

Park is one win away– The Women’s British Open which she finished 2nd at in 2012 — from becoming the seventh golfer to win four different LPGA major Championships. The others are- Mickey Wright, Annika Sorenstam, Karrie Webb, Juli Inkster, Louise Suggs and Pat Bradley.

Ordinarily a Park British Open triumph won give Park a career Grand Slam, except the LPGA has designated the Evian Masters as a major championship also. Beginning THIS YEAR. So Park would have to win two more majors this year to do a Bobby Jones. Memo to LPGA Commissioner Michael Whan- Do you wish now that the Evian wasn’t made into a major championship?

Inbee Park BTW is the defending Evian Masters champion.

So Park will be going for four majors in one year in a little over a month. It will be played at St. Andrews, the same course Tiger Woods completed a career Grand Slam at back in 2000. A run at golf or any other sports history like this would ordinarily gather lots of media attention but I’ll be surprised if the Women’s British Open gets more than a minor increase in coverage. Golf bloggers who I won’t mention, are paying attention to silly things from golfers with wet pants to a player firing their caddy in the middle of a round. Newspapers will have the story buried on page 8. They can hardly be bothered to write about a LPGA major and I’m not expecting much from them on the WBO ESPN does broadcast the WBO, but I again will be surprised if they do anything extra for this year’s tournament. That Park is South Korean, has something to do with it. The ugly reality is that a good chunk of the media has a bias towards the Asian players. I will however the 4th major being not in the United States will be one reason for the limited coverage though the Men’s British Open rarely has trouble getting talked about. If it was Paula Creamer going for the Slam five weeks from now in say New Jersey, there would be plenty of people writing and talking about it. With Park trying to do it in Scotland, hardly anybody.


It is the second straight major championship triumph for the 24-year-old South Korean.

Thirty-six holes of golf were not enough, but 39 worked out just fine for Inbee Park at Locust Hill Country Club on Sunday.

Park, the world’s top-ranked player, defeated Scotland’s Catriona Matthew in a three-hole playoff Sunday afternoon to win the Wegmans Rochester LPGA Championship, the second major on the LPGA Tour schedule this season.

The playoff was the sixth in the 37-year history of LPGA golf in Rochester and the first since Lorena Ochoa defeated In-Kyung Kim in 2007.

Park, 24, shot a 4-under-par 68 in the third round on Sunday morning but struggled down the stretch in the afternoon to a final-round 75 with bogeys on three of her last five holes (Nos. 14, 16 and 18).

Park and Matthew matched pars on the first two holes of the playoff (Nos. 18 and 10), but Matthew found the right rough off the tee on the third playoff hole while Park hit the fairway and was safely on the green in two shots.

Matthew chipped her fourth shot on and had about 15 feet left for bogey, but Park sank a birdie putt from about 18 feet to seal her third major victory.

Suzann Pettersen of Norway shot the low round of the week, a 65 on Sunday afternoon, to tie for third with Morgan Pressel, the 36-hole leader who began Sunday with a two-shot lead over Park and Chella Choi, at 4-under.

The victory makes Park, a native of Seoul, South Korea, the seventh woman in LPGA history to win the first two majors of the season. She also captured the Kraft Nabisco Championship in April. Asian-born players have won the last nine majors on the LPGA Tour.

- Rochester Democrat and Chronicle

Park nearly didn’t win today. Her driving was not very good throughout and she played the 72nd and last hole of regulation terribly. She needed to get up and down from the fringe to make bogey and get in the playoff.

Nevertheless Park came out on top. She now hold three legs of the Women’s Grand Slam. Before this year, she’d be one win away(The Women’s British Open) from a career slam but the LPGA decided to elevate the Evian Masters to major status. So she needs two more wins now.

The way Park is playing right now, I wouldn’t bet against her winning another major this year.


Domination- Jiyai Shin wins the Women’s British Open

The golfer nicknamed the ‘Final Round Queen’ lived up to her nickname today. She won the last LPGA major Championship of 2012 by 9 shots over Inbee Park. Just six days ago Shin defeated Paula Creamer in a sudden death playoff at the Kingsmill Championship.

Shin shot a 71 to open the tournament, then followed it with a course record 64 to open up a five-shot lead going in the day of play. Due to inclement weather on Friday, players who made the tournament cut, had to play 36 holes today.

No South Korean golfer other than Se Ri Pak has won more than one LPGA major. Another tidbit- No South Korean golfer other than Pak has won a double digit amount of LPGA tournaments. As I’ve written a few times, there have been a large number of South Korean golfers who started strongly on the LPGA Tour and then went into decline. Jiyai Shin, winner of the 2008 Women’s British Open, came into today with one LPGA major championship triumph and nine LPGA wins respectively. So she was looking to join Pak.

Karrie Webb shot a third round 68 to pull within 3 shots of Shin with 18 holes to go. The weather turned horrible in the short period of time between Webb and Shin finishing their 3rd rounds and teeing it up for the 4th round. Rain and gusting strong winds. The final round was going to be a matter of survival.

Shin makes a triple bogey on the opening round of her 4th round. Webb made double bogey but Shin’s lead was down to two. That is as close as it came. Shin played the final 17 holes of her 4th round in 2 under par. Webb, Inbee Park, and Mika Miyazato, all faded. The weather was bad for most of the day, in fact there was a 15 minute stoppage as the winds were just gusting too strongly. It was just incredible how Shin played after the 1st hole. She never came close to another disaster. Her final round 73 may have been just as good as Shin’s course record 64 in the second round. Only two golfers, Creamer and Alexis Thompson, shot better rounds than Shin and they each came with 72s.

I think its safe to say Shin is back. The last few weeks look to me look like her making another run at #1 in the world.


Na Yeon Choi wins the U.S. Women’s Open

On the same course Hall of Famer Se Ri Pak won the U.S. Open on in 1998, Na Yeon Choi notched her first major championship triumph. She shot a score of 281 for 72 holes to finish four shots ahead of fellow South Korean Amy Yang.

Choi won the tournament on Saturday when she shot a 65 to take a six-shot lead over into Sunday’s final round. The final round wasn’t without some drama. After playing the first nine holes in par, Choi hooked her tee shot into a hazard on the 10th hole. She finished the hole with a triple bogey and her lead was cut in half from six to three shots. All other golfers other than Choi and Yang weren’t a factor in the final round.

On the 11th hole, Choi bounced back with a birdie. After a good drive on 12, Choi hooked her approach into the deep rough and had such a terrible lie, she was contemplating taking a drop. She didn’t and instead hacked her 3rd shot onto the 20 to 30 feet from the hole which was fantastic considering the circumstances. Choi then made the long putt for par. At the next hole a par 3 with water bordering the green on the right, Choi’s tee shot twice hit inside the hazard line(barely missing the water) before coming to settle just off the back of the green. Choi saved her par again.

After 13, Choi coasted in. She made birdies on 15 and 16 but bogied 18 to finish with a final round 73. With the win, Choi became the 4th South Korean golfer to win the U.S. Women’s Open since 2008. Choi becomes yet again another South Korean golfer with one major championship win. Se Ri Pak is the only Korean to win more than one major. I’ll say this however, either Choi or Jiyai Shin should get a second win before their careers are over.

Choi’s victory comes as no surprise. She was ranked #5 in the world coming into the tournament and was the LPGA Tour’s leading money winner in 2010. She had five previous wins on the LPGA Tour plus six professional wins in South Korea. Either she or Ai Miyazato was the best female golfer in the world without a major championship win. Miyazato now holds the title undeniably.

Se Ri Pak finished a very respectable 9th considering she is likely to have shoulder surgery soon. It was Pak’s success in 1998 that caused Choi and other Koreans to come to the LPGA Tour. Since 2001 South Koreans have won more majors(11) than any other nationality. The United States is 2nd with 10.

#1 player in the world Yani Tseng is in a bit of a slump right now. She won three tournaments early this year but has been struggling of late. To me at least, Tseng in the summer of 2012 is resembling Lorena Ochoa in the summer of 2008. Only months earlier both golfers were invincible and suddenly they were off their games.

The 4th major of the Women’s golf season, The Women’s British Open, won’t be held until September due to the Olympic games in London a few weeks from now. Choi will certainly be one of the favorites.


Lydia Ko wins New South Wales Open

She is just 14-years-old.

SYDNEY — Fourteen-year-old New Zealand amateur Lydia Ko has become the youngest winner of a professional golf tour event, taking the women’s New South Wales Open by four strokes Sunday.

Ko, the world’s top amateur, broke Japanese star Ryo Ishikawa’s mark of 15 years, 8 months, and Australian Amy Yang’s women’s record of 16 years, 192 days in the Australian Ladies Masters.

The South Korean-born New Zealander shot a 3-under 69 to finish at 14 under for the tournament, four strokes clear of Becky Morgan of Wales. Ko came close to winning the tournament last year, but missed a putt on the last hole to lose by a stroke.

Britain’s Laura Davies closed with a 71 and a 54-hole total of 216, 14 strokes behind.

“To be part of history is like a miracle,” Ko said. “It’s not something you can have by clicking your fingers.”


Ko, a Grade 11 student at North Harbour near Auckland, plans to play about 30 tournaments this year, including professional events over the next two weeks at the Australian Masters at Royal Pines on the Gold Coast and the LPGA’s Australian Open at Royal Melbourne.- Associated Press

I won’t pronounce Ko another up and comer. There is a line forming of top Korean or Asian amateur players who have burned out or are in the process of burning out as professionals. Angela Park, Virada Nirapattpongporn, Sukjin Lee-Wuesthoff, to name a few. Maybe Ko won’t be like them but at this point I’d only be guessing.


Hee Young Park wins CME Titleholders Championship

The 2011 LPGA Tour season is over. From USA Today-

Holding off some of the biggest names in women’s golf, unheralded Hee Young Park won the CME Group Titleholders on Sunday for her first career LPGA title.

Hee Young Park of South Korea shows off her prize after winning the CME Group Titleholders on Sunday in Orlando.

Park, with a closing 70, finished at 9-under-par 279 to beat Paula Creamer and Sandra Gal by two shots at sun-splashed Grand Cypress Resort to win the LPGA tour’s season-ending event. Another shot back were Na Yeon Choi and world No. 2 Suzann Pettersen. Michelle Wie, world No. 3 Cristie Kerr and world No. 1 Yani Tseng, trying to win for the 12th time this season, made brief runs at the championship before finishing in a tie for sixth, seven shots behind.

“I still cannot believe this,” Park said. “On the back nine I was getting like nervous and then getting tight in my body. So my caddie said, ‘Just keep going, keep trying to (play) like (it’s the) first round. You’re on the tee first time each hole, and just keep doing the same thing.’ And then I said ‘OK.’ ”

After a pep talk from Kerr on the driving range — “She told me to cheer up and that I could do it, that I could win,” Park said — she pocketed $500,000, by far the largest check of her career. She said a key moment in her round came after a bogey on the fourth hole. Telling herself that she was thinking too much about every shot up to that point, Park from then on just trusted her instincts and her club selection.

Park had won a professional tournament before, the last of her three victories on the LPGA of Korea Tour coming in 2006.

“My first win in the U.S., it feels totally different,” Park said. “Still same kind of goose bumps, but this win, I think could change my life, my future.”

Park, the overnight leader with Gal, had recorded only two top-10s in 20 events heading into the Titleholders. But she took the outright lead in the final round for the first time with a birdie on the par-3 eighth hole, her third birdie in four holes. With the two paired in the final group, Gal pulled within one shot with back-to-back birdies on the 13th and 14th holes, but a bogey at the 15th dropped her two back. Park, with a steady hand and a clutch putter, closed out her victory with 10 consecutive pars.

“She had great composure all day long,” Gal said of Park. “She’s always smiling. I’ve played with her many times, and she’s such a great competitor to play with because she’s always happy and just plays her own game.

“She didn’t make any bogeys. Her short game was great, and she made some good birdies early on, and I think that kind of gave her the momentum for the entire round.”

Added Creamer about Park: “That’s awesome playing on this course, and playing against all the big names out there. She’s a great player, and she deserved it.”

Creamer, who missed three putts inside 4 feet early in her round, made a charge with three birdies in four holes on the back nine. But just as her whole season has gone — nine top-10s, no victories — she came up just short.

Park was a deserving winner today. It will have to be seen if she can follow up with more LPGA wins. The list of South Korean golfers with one or two wins is kind of long.(Birdie Kim, Jeong Jang, Gloria Park, Eun Hi Ji, Inbee Park, Jee Young Lee, Shi Hyun Ahn, and more.)

Park is only one of three South Koreans to win on tour in 2011. The others were Na Yeon Choi, and U.S. Open Champion So Yeon Ryu. Hee Kyung Seo aka ‘The Supermodel of the Fairways’ did take home the Rookie of the Year award. So much for the Koreans taking over the LPGA Tour, eh?

The LPGA hasn’t announced its 2012 schedule yet. I’m assuming it will be starting in Australia next February, but yours truly hopes for a miracle. A start up in South Florida, which was normal for the LPGA up till about 10 years ago, would be very nice not to mention convenient for me.


13-time PGA Tour winner Dave Hill dead at 74

My interest in golf began in the late 70′s. As I recall now, my weekly golf watching began with the 1978 Masters which was won by Gary Player after he shot a final round 64.

Naturally enough as my interest in following the golf tour grew, I wanted to read about it also. In 1979 shortly before I enlisted in the Navy I bought a book. It was titled Teed Off and it was written by Dave Hill. Hill, whose productive PGA career ran before I began following the sport, gave his opinions in Teed Off on everything from golf course design to some players think sex helps them play better golf. I loved the book and recently bought a new copy of it because the old one I had was falling apart.

Hill was a controversial player.(In Teed Off he claimed or joked that the PGA used to allow fan banners until ones were seen with the words ‘Hill’s Angels’ on them) He’ll never be forgotten for his 80 acres of corn and a few cows wisecrack about Hazeltine National Golf Club in 1970. Less remembered but more important, was Dave Hill filing an anti-trust lawsuit against the PGA Tour in 1971. He said there were two sets of rules, one for the stars and one for everyone else. It’s still true today. Tiger Woods defaces a green at a US Open and does he get fined or penalized? Of course not. Hill’s lawsuit I think did bring about changes but they are behind the scenes. The fines and suspensions handed down to players and why used to be public. Now the PGA Tour doesn’t discuss the matter as seen with their suspension of Jonathan Kaye a decade ago. Did he just attach a badge to his pants zipper or do much more? The Tour won’t talk about it.

Back to Hill. He was outspoken and controversial(Age didn’t seem to mellow him. He got in a fist fight with JC Snead when both of them were playing the Seniors Tour. 20 years prior to that Tour officials had to prevent Hill from having a go at Chi Chi Rodriguez too.) but he was also a talented golfer who won a Vardon Trophy and one of the best shotmakers of his day. RIP Dave.


Dave Hill, whose golf skills combined with a sharp tongue made him Jackson’s most famous athlete, died Tuesday at age 74.

Hill, recognized as one of the top shotmakers on the PGA Tour in the 1960s and ’70s, had suffered from emphysema for several years, according to his brother and fellow PGA Tour player Mike.


NBC’s idiotic golf coverage or where in the world is YE Yang?

Rory McIlroy has a 10-shot lead at the moment in the 2011 U.S. Open. South Korean YE Yang is tied for second. NBC, who is televising this year’s U.S. Open, acts like Yang isn’t even playing in the tournament.

On the 3rd hole we see Yang’s tee shot but nothing else. When he was putting for birdie, NBC showed a short piece on former Open winners.

On the 5th hole, none of Yang’s putts are shown.

The 6th hole after McIlroy tees off, you’d think NBC would show Yang’s tee. Nope, they don’t. Instead we get a fluff piece on McIlroy.

There was an earlier lapse in NBC’s coverage of Yang on either the 1st or 2nd hole but I didn’t take notes.

Hardcore LPGA followers have been noting for a long time the way Korean golfers are covered on television. Or call it lack of coverage. Just a month ago NBC had no problem telling us David Toms had a very poor record at The Players Championship while he dueled KJ Choi. NBC didn’t mention that Choi’s record at the TPC of Sawgrass is even worse.

Yang just made birdie at the 6th hole to pull to nine shots behind. NBC also issued an apology for editing out part of the pledge of allallegiance in a opening segment of today’s broadcasts.


The LPGA Tour begins its 2011 season

Tomorrow, or Wednesday night United States time, The United States based Women’s Professional Golf organization will begin playing its first event of the year.

Some Predictions

Major Champions- Choi, Pettersen, Wie, IK Kim
Player of the Year- Choi
Rookie of the Year- Jennifer Song
Comeback Player of the Year- Eun Hee Ji
Song Hee Kim will win her first LPGA tournament

Under the fold are my top 30 players for this year. Mostly Harmless has a round up of other prognostications from LPGA followers.


Jimin Kang wins Sime Darby LPGA Malaysia

It was her first win since 2005. From AP-

Jimin Kang won the Sime Darby LPGA Malaysia for her second LPGA Tour title, beating Juli Inkster by a stroke Sunday when the 50-year-old Hall of Famer bogeyed the final hole.

Kang, the 30-year-old South Korean player who went to high school in Edmonds, Wash., and starred at Arizona State, made a 12-foot birdie putt on the par-4 18th for a 6-under 65 and a 9-under total at Kuala Lumpur Golf and Country Club.

“Speechless,” Kang said. “That’s not that easy to do for me. I played solid. I hit a lot of putts. As you guys can tell, my score was good enough to win a tournament, and you know, it’s been a while. So I’m trying to soak this in.

“Oh, my God, I can’t believe I won!”

Inkster finished with her second straight 67. She birdied Nos. 15-17 to take the lead, but couldn’t hold on in her bid to break the LPGA Tour age record of 46 years, 8 months set by Beth Daniel in the 2003 Canadian Women’s Open.

Playing in the group behind Kang, Inkster pushed her second shot into the right greenside bunker at 18, then nearly holed out from the sand before two-putting for bogey.

“When I miss it, I miss it right,” Inkster said about her approach shot. “It was a three-quarter shot and I left it out there. I played well all day.

“I really enjoy what I do. It’s nice to be able to compete.”

Kang, also the 2005 LPGA Corning Classic winner, birdied three of the last four holes and earned $270,000 in the inaugural event.

Kang won Corning in dramatic style. She made a hole-in-one on the 15th hole Sunday and edged Annika Sorenstam for the win also.

After a so-so 2006, Kang was very consistent golfer(Her standings on the money list falling between 42nd and 56th each year) from 2007 to her win today. Still her win was a surprise to me today. Kang had rarely contended in those years and I long since pegged her as one of those Korean players(Shi Hyun Ahn, Birdie Kim, Joo Mi Kim, Meena Lee) who win once or twice then fade slowly or quickly from view.

Juli Inkster continues to show she has has game at age 50. She had two top 10′s coming into Malaysia and was in the top 45 money winners. She improved that today and her chances of qualifying for next year’s Solheim Cup team.


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