PINEHURST, N.C. – Inbee Park loved watching the way Martin Kaymer won the U.S. Open on Sunday at Pinehurst No. 2.
She loved it because he seemed to use his putter every chance he could after missing those menacing turtleback greens.
That’s what Park was hoping to see when she tuned in to watch the championship. She wants to use her putter as much as she can on and around these testy Donald Ross greens, and so seeing how Kaymer’s short-game plan paid off really encouraged her.
“I'll try to use the putter as many times as I can,” Park said.
At her best, Park can demoralize the competition.
In her sport, that’s usually done with the driver, by players able to intimidate foes with monster tee shots into neighboring zip codes.
That’s not how Park did it last year in her historic run, when she became the first player since Babe Zaharias in 1950 to win the first three women’s majors of the year. She did it holing putts from all over the place.
While Park hasn’t been happy with her putting most of this year, there’s disquieting news for her competition on the eve of the U.S. Women’s Open. Park’s buttery putting stroke is back in working order.
Park will tee it up in Thursday’s start of the U.S. Women’s Open at Pinehurst No. 2 fresh off her victory at the Manulife Financial LPGA Classic, her first LPGA title since she won last year’s U.S. Women’s Open at Sebonack.
Park closed out her title at Manulife with a final-round 61, the lowest score of her LPGA career.
“My putter wasn't working so well the last four months, but it seems like it's coming back slowly, especially at Manulife, especially the final round,” Park said. “It gave me so much confidence, and was really a big confidence boost, especially with the putting, because I just wasn't able to hole anything [before that].”
Park’s caddie, Brad Beecher, helped her find her stroke. He told her to go back and watch herself on tape in last year’s U.S. Women’s Open victory. That’s what she did before winning at Manulife.
“I just feel really good about how I putted last year, how I stroked it last year,” Park said. “I tried to look at the videos of me last year and to see the rhythm and the putting stroke from last year. It felt like my putter head was coming too high from the ground when I did the follow through. So I try to do it lower to the ground. And that seemed like it's working well.”
Park, the U.S. Women’s Open defending champion, is No. 2 in the Rolex Women’s World Rankings. Stacy Lewis took the top ranking from her by winning the ShopRite Classic three weeks ago. Park answered right back with the win at Manulife, though she didn’t get enough points to jump back over Lewis.
No. 1 Lewis and No. 2 Park will play the first two rounds together at Pinehurst No. 2 with U.S. Women’s Amateur champion Emma Talley. A year ago, Park was No. 1 going into the U.S. Women’s Open and paired with No. 2 Suzann Pettersen and No. 3 Lewis. Park putted lights out. By the end of the second round, she was 19 shots ahead of Pettersen and 12 ahead of Lewis. The experience motivated Lewis and Pettersen. Lewis won the year’s very next major, the Ricoh Women’s British Open, and Pettersen won the year’s last, the Evian Championship.
Notably, Lewis and Park aren’t just No. 1-2 in the world rankings today. They’re No. 1-2 on tour in putts per greens in regulation with Lewis atop Park.