Park not just winning, but making history

By Randall MellJune 15, 2015, 12:27 am

HARRISON, N.Y. – Inbee Park is the best player today in the women’s game.

There’s no doubt now.

With her commanding performance Sunday winning the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship, Park ascends back to No. 1 in the Rolex Women’s World Ranking, overtaking Lydia Ko, but the ranking is almost inconsequential. The true measure of Park’s supremacy is how she’s dominating major championships at a time when the women’s game is arguably as deep as it’s ever been with so much international talent.

Park pulled away from everybody on a tough track at Westchester Country Club and won by five shots. She was at her best on the weekend with the pressure the most intense. She didn’t make a bogey shooting 5-under-par 68 in the final round, didn’t make a bogey shooting 66 on Saturday, either. She didn’t make a bogey over her last 56 holes.

“I probably feel more happy winning this major championship than being back to No. 1 again,” Park said.

Park showed yet again Sunday that she has no equal today on the game’s grandest stages. In fact, this victory thrusts her into an even larger conversation. She’s only 26, but we can now begin to ask where she stands among the greats in the women’s game and wonder just where she might end up. That’s what winning five of the last 12 major championships does. It’s what winning her sixth major overall does.

Sunday’s triumph was Park’s third consecutive in this championship with the Women’s PGA Championship adopting all the history and records of the LPGA Championship, the special foundation this event is built upon. Annika Sorenstam is the only other player to win this event three consecutive years (2003-05).

KPMG Women’s PGA: Articles, videos and photos

“It feels amazing to win three times in a row,” Park said. “Obviously, putting my name alongside Annika Sorenstam and Patty Berg, legends of golf, on this trophy, just being a part of the history of this golf tournament, I feel extremely honored. I can't believe that I just did it. I mean, it has not really sunk down yet.”

That’s the thing with Park now. She’s winning so many of these majors her record is building historic impact.

When she won the first three majors of 2013, she achieved something no woman had done since Babe Zaharias in 1950.

Park has now won as many majors as Kathy Whitworth, Pat Bradley, Patty Sheehan and Betsy King.

Only eight women in the history of the game have won more majors.

Park was asked afterward if making history matters to her.

“I always dreamed of being a part of history,” Park said. “There is my name on this trophy, my name on the U.S. Open trophy. There’s my name on great championships ... I look at my name on this trophy, all the legendary players, and we still remember them.”

Park’s victory at Westchester is especially monumental back in her native South Korea, where women’s golf is so popular. It gives her one more major championship triumph now than Se Ri Pak, the South Korean icon who inspired so many players of Park’s generation growing up in their homeland.

“Se Ri had great accomplishments in women's golf, inspired a lot of young Korean golfers like me,” Park said. “I never thought I would be able to win more majors than her, or tournaments than her.”

Park has a way to go to catch Pak’s 25 LPGA titles. Park is now up to 15.

Still, this major championship run, the history Park made making a run at the Grand Slam two years ago, now winning the LPGA Championship three years in a row, it’s making an impression on the South Koreans chasing her.

“Inbee’s the best ever,” Kim said when asked where Park ranked among South Korea’s great golfers.

Better than Se Ri?

“Yes,” Kim said. “Best ever.”

That’s up for debate, but there’s no debating Park’s major championship performances are separating her from everyone in today’s game. Karrie Webb, Stacy Lewis, Suzann Pettersen, Cristie Kerr, Brittany Lincicome Lexi Thompson, Shanshan Feng, Anna Nordqvist, So Yeon Ryu, Na Yeon Choi, Morgan Pressel, Michelle Wie and Hyo Joo Kim have all proven themselves in major championships. Ko, Sei Young Kim and one of the best rookie classes in the history of the game are destined to win majors, probably a lot of them, but they’re all going to have to get by Park, whose ball-striking is becoming as formidable as her putting.

“Three years ago, it seemed like she was just riding her putter,” Lewis said. “That was pretty obvious. She was making putts from everywhere. Over the last year, I don’t think her putting has been as good, but her ball-striking has gotten better. She gets hot with her putter now, with her good ball-striking, it’s a pretty deadly combination.”

Lewis was impressed that Park’s game is built to win on so many different kinds of courses. She proved that winning this championship at Locust Hill, Monroe Golf Club and Westchester. Park is known for her putting, but she also has one of the best short games on tour. Lewis says Park’s all-around game is underappreciated.

“She doesn’t do anything flashy, or just blow you away,” Lewis said. “She doesn’t have length to where she can bomb it over trees or reach par 5s. She just goes about her business and makes it look easy.”

Park won the U.S. Women’s Open when she was 19, but then she struggled to play at that level again, going winless for three years. She began overhauling her swing with coach Gi Hyeob Nam in 2011 with the full effect of it kicking in during the 2012 season, when she won three times worldwide.

“My ball-striking's been improved probably 300 percent,” Park said. “He's been really the key factor. The ball-striking has been really the key factor for my career. My swing change obviously was the best thing that I've ever done.”

Park married Nam last year.

“He really loves golf,” said Brad Beecher, Park’s long-time caddie. “He works so hard for her. He puts so much effort into to helping her, and I think that really inspires her. She is just driven to get better and better.”

It’s becoming a history-making drive.

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After Further Review: Tiger's return comes at perfect time

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 22, 2018, 2:19 am

Each week, takes a look back at the week in golf. Here's what's weighing on our writers' minds.

On the current state of golf as Tiger Woods returns to competition ...

Less than four days before Tiger Woods returns to official competitive golf for the first time in a year, Jon Rahm, the new second-ranked player in the world, won on the PGA Tour and Rory McIlroy made an impressive 2018 debut on the European Tour (T-3).

Not since Ben Hogan, Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus crossed paths at the 1960 U.S. Open has there been so many superstars all poised for big seasons, with world No. 1 Dustin Johnson having already won this year and Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas both coming off stellar seasons.

It’s a good time for golf. - Rex Hoggard

On Tommy Fleetwood's continued success ...

There have been scores of talented European players whose skills didn’t translate to the PGA Tour … and maybe, in a few years, Tommy Fleetwood will prove to be no different.

He sure looks like the real deal, though.  

His title defense in Abu Dhabi – on the strength of a back-nine 30 in windy conditions – was his third title in the past 12 months and 11th top-10 overall. A few of those have come in majors and World Golf Championship events, too, which led the reigning Race to Dubai champion to accept PGA Tour membership for this season.

Beginning at Riviera, he plans to play exclusively in the States through May, then reassess for the rest of the year. Hope he sticks, because he’s a fun personality with tons of game. - Ryan Lavner

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Rahm passes Spieth to become world No. 2

By Nick MentaJanuary 22, 2018, 1:25 am

With his win Sunday at the CareerBuilder Challenge, Jon Rahm picked up his second PGA Tour victory and moved to No. 2 in the FedExCup points standings.

He picked up one more No. 2, too.

The 23-year-old Spaniard passed Jordan Spieth to move to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking, behind only Dustin Johnson.

In 19 months, since June 2016, Rahm has rocketed from No. 776 in the world to No. 2, thanks in part to his low divisor, his number of events played.

Asked after his playoff victory over Andrew Landry to discuss his rapid ascent up the world rankings, Rahm was almost at a loss.

“It's hard to believe to be honest, passing Jordan Spieth,” he said. “That's a three-time major champion. I only have two wins. He's got 10-plus, right? It's again – I've said it many times – I never thought I was going to be at this point in my life right now.”

Rahm may only have two PGA Tour titles, but this is his fourth worldwide win in the last year, dating back to last season’s Farmers Insurance Open. He also took the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open and the DP World Tour Championship on his way to claiming the European Tour’s 2017 Rookie of the Year Award.

Dating back to the start of last season on the PGA Tour, Rahm has racked up 12 top-10s, three runner-ups, and two wins.

He will head to Torrey Pines next week ready to defend for the first time.

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Brady compares self to Woods after winning AFC title

By Jason CrookJanuary 22, 2018, 1:05 am

Tom Brady and Tiger Woods are two of the all-time greats in their respective sports ... a fact that is not lost on the five-time Super Bowl winning quarterback.

Fresh off leading the New England Patriots to a AFC Championship victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars, Brady was asked about winning the game despite a cut on his throwing hand - which made national news heading into the matchup.

His response invoked the name of a certain 14-time major winner, something that would be tough to pull off, if not for the fact that he is, you know, Tom Brady.

“I think it's kind of arrogant to say it bothered me when we had a pretty good game, so I wouldn't say that," the 40-year-old told reporters after the game. "It's like when Tiger Woods said, ‘That was my C game’ and he won the tournament."

Tiger Woods winning with his "C game" may be a distant memory for golf fans, but no matter what game he brings, his next chance to win comes next week at Torrey Pines during his official comeback to the PGA Tour.

Brady has a shot at his sixth Super Bowl title in two weeks. The Patriots would probably benefit from him bringing a little better than his "C game" as well.

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Rahm beats Landry in playoff to win CareerBuilder

By Nick MentaJanuary 22, 2018, 1:00 am

Jon Rahm birdied the fourth extra hole Sunday to defeat Andrew Landry in a playoff, win the CareerBuilder Challenge and move to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking. Here’s how things played out in overtime at PGA West:

Leaderboard: Rahm (-22), Landry (-22), John Huh (-20), Adam Hadwin (-20), Martin Piller (-20), Kevin Chappell (-19), Scott Piercy (-19)

What it means: This is Rahm’s second PGA Tour win and his fourth worldwide victory in the last year, dating back to last season’s Farmers Insurance Open. Rahm took the early lead Thursday with an opening 62 and after rounds of 67-70, he started the final round two back. On Sunday, he made five birdies without dropping a single shot on the intimidating Stadium Course. In the clubhouse at 22 under, Rahm watched as Landry made birdie on 18 to force a playoff.

Rahm missed birdie putts that would have ended the tournament on the final hole of regulation and on each playoff hole. Finally, on his fourth trip down 18 of the day, his birdie bid found the cup. With the victory, Rahm passes Jordan Spieth to move to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking, trailing only Dustin Johnson. He enters next week at Torrey Pines looking to defend for the first time.

Best of the rest: A two-time winner playing his second full season on the PGA Tour, Landry shot 68 Sunday, making birdie on the 72nd hole to force extras. Once Rahm finally made birdie on the fourth playoff hole, Landry's putt to extend slid by on the right edge. This is Landry's best career finish on the PGA Tour. Had he won, he would have secured full Tour status through the 2019-20 season and earned invites to the Masters, Players, and PGA Championships.

Round of the day: Sam Saunders fired an 8-under 64 to register this best finish of the season, a tie for eighth at 18 under. The reigning Tour Championship winner was 9 under par through 12 holes before making bogey at 13 and parring his way into the clubhouse.

Biggest disappointment: Overnight leader Austin Cook was eyeing his second win of the season but never contended. The RSM champion carded two double bogeys Sunday en route to a 3-over 75, dropping him from the 54-hole lead to a tie for 14th.

Shot of the day: Rahm's putt to win:

Quote of the day: "One of us had to do it and either one of us would have been a well-deserving champion." - Rahm on his playoff victory over Landry