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.

Getty Images

What's in the bag: CareerBuilder winner Rahm

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 22, 2018, 10:37 pm

Jon Rahm defeated Andrew Landry in a playoff to earn his second PGA Tour title at the CareerBuilder Challenge. Here's what's in his bag:

Driver: TaylorMade M4 (9.5 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft

Fairway wood: TaylorMade M3 (19 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft

Irons: TaylorMade P790 (3), P750 (4-PW), with Project X 6.5 shafts

Wedges: TaylorMade Milled Grind (52, 56 degrees), Milled Grind Hi-Toe (60 degrees), with Project X 6.5 shafts

Putter: TaylorMade Spider Tour Red

Ball: TaylorMade TP5x

Getty Images

Strange irked by Rahm-Landry friendly playoff

By Jason CrookJanuary 22, 2018, 9:45 pm

Curtis Strange knows a thing or two about winning golf tournaments, and based on his reaction to the CareerBuilder Challenge playoff on Sunday, it’s safe to say he did things a little differently while picking up 17 PGA Tour victories in his Hall-of-Fame career.

While Jon Rahm and Andrew Landry were “battling” through four extra holes, Strange, 62, tweeted his issues with the duo’s constant chit-chat and friendly banter down the stretch at La Quinta Country Club, where Rahm eventually came out on top.

The two-time U.S. Open champ then engaged with some followers to explain his point a little more in depth.

So, yeah ... don't think he's changing his perspective on this topic anytime soon ever.

Getty Images

Randall's Rant: The Euros won't just roll over

By Randall MellJanuary 22, 2018, 9:36 pm

The Ryder Cup may not be the King Kong of golf events yet, but you can hear the biennial international team event thumping its chest a full eight months out.

As anticipation for this year’s big events goes, there is more buzz about Europe’s bid to hold off a rejuvenated American effort in Paris in September than there is about the Masters coming up in April.

Thank Europe’s phenomenal success last weekend for that.

And Rory McIlroy’s impassioned remarks in Abu Dhabi.

And the provocative bulletin board material a certain Sports Illustrated writer provided the Europeans a couple months ago, with a stinging assault on the Euro chances that read like an obituary.

McIlroy was asked in a news conference before his 2018 debut last week what he was most excited about this year.

The Ryder Cup topped his list.

Though McIlroy will be trying to complete the career Grand Slam at Augusta National come April, he talked more about the Ryder Cup than he did any of the game’s major championships.

When asked a follow-up about the American team’s resurgence after a task-force overhaul and the injection of young, new star power, McIlroy nearly started breaking down the matchup. He talked about the young Americans and how good they are.

“Yeah, the Americans have been, obviously, very buoyant about their chances and whatever, but it’s never as easy as that. ... The Ryder Cup’s always close,” McIlroy said. “I think we’ll have a great team, and it definitely won’t be as easy as they think it’s going to be.”

McIlroy may have been talking about Alan Shipnuck’s bold prediction after the American Presidents Cup rout last fall.

Or similar assertions from TV analysts.

“The Ryder Cup is dead – you just don’t know it yet,” Shipnuck wrote. “One of the greatest events in sport is on the verge of irrelevancy. The young, talented, hungry golfers from the United States, benefitting from the cohesive leadership of the Task Force era, are going to roll to victory in 2018 in Paris.”

European Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn won’t find words that will motivate the Euros more than that as he watches his prospective players jockey to make the team.

And, boy, did they jockey last weekend.

The Euros dominated across the planet, not that they did it with the Ryder Cup as some rallying cry, because they didn’t. But it was a heck of an encouraging start to the year for Bjorn to witness.

Spain’s Jon Rahm won the CareerBuilder Challenge on the PGA Tour, England’s Tommy Fleetwood started the week at Abu Dhabi paired with American and world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and won the European Tour event, and Spain’s Sergio Garcia won the Singapore Open in a rout on the Asian Tour.

And McIlroy looked close to being in midseason form, tying for third in his first start in three months.

Yes, it’s only January, and the Ryder Cup is still a long way off, with so much still to unfold, but you got an early sense from McIlroy how much defending European turf will mean to him and the Euros in Paris in September.

The Masters is great theater, the U.S. Open a rigorous test, The Open and the PGA Championship historically important, too, but the Ryder Cup touches a nerve none of those do.

The Ryder Cup stokes more fervor, provokes more passion and incites more vitriol than any other event in golf.

More bulletin board material, too.

Yeah, it’s a long way off, but you can already hear the Ryder Cup’s King Kong like footsteps in its distant approach. Watching how the American and European teams come together will be an ongoing drama through spring and summer.

Getty Images

Quail Hollow officials promise players easier conditions

By Rex HoggardJanuary 22, 2018, 9:14 pm

Quail Hollow Club - a staple on the PGA Tour since 2003 - debuted as a longer, tougher version of itself at last year’s PGA Championship, receiving mixed reviews from players.

The course played to a lengthened 7,600 yards at last year’s PGA and a 73.46 stroke average, the toughest course in relation to par on Tour in 2017. As a result, it left some players less than excited to return to the Charlotte, N.C.-area layout later this spring for the Wells Fargo Championship.

It’s that lack of enthusiasm that led officials at Quail Hollow to send a video to players saying, essentially, that the course players have lauded for years will be back in May.

The video, which includes Quail Hollow president Johnny Harris and runs nearly five minutes, begins with an explanation of how the first hole, which played as a 524-yard par 4 at the PGA, will play much shorter at the Wells Fargo Championship.

“I had a number of my friends who were playing in the tournament tell me that tee was better suited as a lemonade stand,” Harris joked of the new tee box on the fourth hole. “I doubt we’ll ever see that tee used again in competition.”

Harris also explained that the greens, which became too fast for some, will be “softer” for this year’s Wells Fargo Championship.