Park remaining calm amid Grand Slam storm

By Randall MellJuly 31, 2013, 6:56 pm

ST. ANDREWS, Scotland – Inbee Park was apparently born with cool equanimity in her genes.

The unshakeable sense of peace with which she plays this maddening game was a gift from her mother.

That’s what Sung Kim Park, Inbee’s mother, says with a wry smile.

“I made her that way,” Sung Kim said, rubbing her belly as if she were still pregnant with Inbee.

Sung Kim was good-naturedly joking, but she will tell you that her daughter seems to have been born with the gift of a serene disposition.

“She has always been like that, since a small child,” Sung Kim said.

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Park’s fellow LPGA pros don’t doubt that with Park teeing it up Thursday in a bid to win the Ricoh Women’s British Open and become the first man or woman to win four professional majors in one season. The weight of history is pressing down on Park, and even her closest friends couldn’t help wonder how she’s holding up under that.

“One thing I worried about is all the media attention she’s getting,” said So Yeon Ryu, who played a practice round with Park on Wednesday. “I worried about if she would lose concentration, but after playing with her today, I’m not worried anymore. She doesn’t look nervous or too excited. She is calm like she always is.”

Park seems so suited to St. Andrews and the Old Course. When she changed her swing a couple years ago with the help of her coach/fiancé, Gi Hyeob Nam, she lowered her ball flight. It should serve her well on the Old Course, where the winds can blow so hard off the North Sea. She also has a terrific short game. She said it’s a benefit from having been such a wild ball striker in her youth. Of course, she is also the best putter in the women’s game, a particularly adept lag putter, a vital skill on the Old Course’s monstrous greens.

The X factor this week is how all the building pressure to make history will affect her.

Hall of Famer Carol Mann thinks Park’s even temperament is a huge asset this week.

“She seems to have less of herself to overcome,” Mann said.

That observation cuts to the heart of what players face trying to win prizes built into monumental importance. So often, players get in their own way. Majors are so often lost more than they are won. It’s why so many players have sports psychologists.

Park has a sports psychologist, Sookyung Cho, but Park’s naturally easy temperament is a gift.

“I think that's been my personality forever, since I was a little kid,” Park said. “My emotions don't express so much on my face. That’s just how I play golf. It’s been working really good on the golf course. So, I think I found myself.”

Park says she feels nerves more than people think, but that’s hard for even her caddie to fathom. He said he has detected nerves in her just once.

“I have never seen her angry or emotional,” said Brad Beecher, who has been on Park’s bag for six years. “The only time I ever saw her nervous was at Malaysia last year, and I can’t tell you why.”

Park admirably handled the pressure at the U.S. Women’s Open last month. After making three consecutive bogeys in her Saturday round at Sebonack, and looking as if she were unraveling, she made back-to-back birdies. When she won the LPGA Championship in June, she blew her lead on the back nine in the final round with some wild ball striking but bounced back with a brilliant playoff performance to beat Catriona Matthew.

In those wayward moments, Park never looked the least bit shaken.

“I do believe she has a very good chance of pulling this off because of her demeanor and confidence,” Hall of Famer Pat Bradley said.

While trying to make history in the women’s game, Park is venturing into territory visited by very few players. Bradley is one of them.

Back in 1986, Bradley created a buzz over her run at the Grand Slam by winning the year’s first two majors. After winning the Kraft Nabisco Championship and the LPGA Championship, Bradley headed to NCR Country Club in Dayton, Ohio, with everybody in the women’s game talking about her attempt.

Bradley confessed she felt abnormally nervous when she stepped to the first tee in the first round.

“I was nervous every day leading up to that first round,” Bradley said. “All the talk was about the Grand Slam, with this huge buzz building. I didn’t handle that aspect of it very well. With all the hype and hoopla, I got off to a rough start.”

Bradley shot 76 in the first round and still made a run at winning. She tied for fifth, finishing three shots out of the playoff that Jane Geddes won.

After going on to win the year’s final major to take three of the four majors, Bradley was left to wonder what might have been.

“There’s an old saying that you can’t win a tournament on Thursday, but you can lose it,” Bradley said. “I did lose it on Thursday.”

Bradley loves Park’s cool demeanor. Bradley was a fiery competitor, a different personality than Park.

“Her composure is so at ease, she puts you at ease watching her,” Bradley said. “When I was doing my deal, I would have people on the edge of their seats with their hearts in their stomachs. When I watched Inbee at the U.S. Women’s Open, I sat back and I was so at ease. She’s a joy to watch. She’s so in control of herself.”

Annika Sorenstam knows what Grand Slam pressure is, too. She won the first two majors of the ’05 season to build a buzz over her bid as she went to the U.S. Women’s Open at Cherry Hills. Sorenstam never got into her usual rhythm and said she began trying to force things. She tied for 23rd.

“I was hearing all the Grand Slam talk, and I thought it was possible, having won each of the majors before,” Sorenstam said. “But I came to Denver, and I didn’t play well. I think I was just exhausted from the buildup, the expectations and the fact that it had already been a long season. I was patient at first, and then I just pushed and pushed, and it wasn’t enough.”

Sorenstam won 10 times in ’05.

Nancy Lopez felt the pressure to make history as a rookie in her winning streak that year. In ’78, she set an LPGA record by winning five tournaments in a row. As she went for her sixth consecutive victory, the interest in her was intense.

“No matter what anyone says, it’s hard to handle that pressure,” Lopez said. “I went to bed nervous, I woke up nervous. So, I felt the nerves, but I think they were good for me.”

Lopez said focus becomes a challenge as a streak builds.

“You have to stay in the moment, not think too far ahead, but it’s hard when you’re being asked about it all the time, when you’re having to talk about it so much,” Lopez said.

Lopez also believes Park’s personality suits her to this week’s challenge.

“I think it will help her get through the chaos,” Lopez said.

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Watson back in top 40 after OWGR free fall

By Ryan LavnerFebruary 19, 2018, 1:48 pm

Bubba Watson ended his free fall in the Official World Golf Ranking with a two-shot victory Sunday at the Genesis Open.

Watson, a fixture in the top 10 in the world as recently as 13 months ago, had dropped all the way to 117th after a 2017 season in which he struggled with poor form, illness and desire.

After his third career win at Riviera, he is up to 40th.

Kevin Na rose from 95th to 65th after tying for second in Los Angeles, while Tony Finau jumped from 41st to 33rd.

Tiger Woods actually improved in the world ranking, from No. 550 to No. 544, despite a missed cut at the Genesis Open.

On the European Tour, Joost Luiten surged from 90th to 68th after his victory in Oman.

The top 10 in the world remained unchanged as the PGA Tour heads into the Florida swing: Dustin Johnson, Jon Rahm, Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas, Justin Rose, Hideki Matsuyama, Rickie Fowler, Jason Day, Brooks Koepka and Rory McIlroy.

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Bubba catapults, Phil creeps up in Ryder Cup standings

By Golf Channel DigitalFebruary 19, 2018, 1:21 pm

Bubba Watson was an assistant on the 2016 Ryder Cup team. He doesn’t want to be driving a cart in Paris.

Watson, thanks to his victory in the Genesis Open, jumped from 60th to 10th in the latest U.S. Ryder Cup standings. The top eight after the PGA Championship qualify automatically for this year’s edition at Le Golf National in France.

Phil Mickelson moved up one spot to 11th after tying for sixth at Riviera Country Club.

Players will receive one point per dollar earned in regular events this year, with 1.5 points per dollar in majors and two points per dollar for winning a major. Here's a look at the current U.S. standings:

1. Dustin Johnson

2. Brooks Koepka

3. Justin Thomas

4. Jordan Spieth

5. Matt Kuchar

6. Brian Harman

7. Gary Woodland

8. Rickie Fowler


9. Chez Reavie

10. Bubba Watson

11. Phil Mickelson

12. Patrick Reed

On the European side, the top four players from the Ryder Cup points list will be joined by the top four qualifiers from the world points list, with captain Thomas Bjorn making four additional selections. Here's a look at the current top names:

Ryder Cup Points

1. Justin Rose

2. Tyrrell Hatton

3. Ross Fisher

4. Matthew Fitzpatrick

World Points

1. Jon Rahm

2. Tommy Fleetwood

3. Sergio Garcia

4. Rory McIlroy

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Genesis Open purse payout: Bubba makes bank

By Golf Channel DigitalFebruary 19, 2018, 1:03 pm

Bubba Watson won the Genesis Open for a third time on Sunday, moving his career PGA Tour win total to 10. Here's a look at how the purse paid out at Riviera Country Club.

1 Bubba Watson -12 $1,296,000
T2 Kevin Na -10 $633,600
T2 Tony Finau -10 $633,600
T4 Scott Stallings -9 $316,800
T4 Patrick Cantlay -9 $316,800
T6 Adam Hadwin -8 $241,200
T6 Phil Mickelson -8 $241,200
T6 Cameron Smith -8 $241,200
T9 Jordan Spieth -7 $180,000
T9 Martin Laird -7 $180,000
T9 Xander Schauffele -7 $180,000
T9 Ryan Moore -7 $180,000
T9 Justin Thomas -7 $180,000
T14 James Hahn -6 $133,200
T14 Aaron Baddeley -6 $133,200
T16 Alex Noren -4 $111,600
T16 Sung-hoon Kang -4 $111,600
T16 Dustin Johnson -4 $111,600
T16 Derek Fathauer -4 $111,600
T20 Rory McIlroy -3 $78,000
T20 Bud Cauley -3 $78,000
T20 Kevin Chappell -3 $78,000
T20 Talor Gooch -3 $78,000
T20 Jason Kokrak -3 $78,000
T20 Vaughn Taylor -3 $78,000
T26 John Huh -2 $46,996
T26 Peter Uihlein -2 $46,996
T26 Luke List -2 $46,996
T26 Rafael Cabrera Bello -2 $46,996
T26 Patrick Rodgers -2 $46,996
T26 Jamie Lovemark -2 $46,996
T26 Dominic Bozzelli -2 $46,996
T26 Matt Kuchar -2 $46,996
T26 Anirban Lahiri -2 $46,996
T26 Sam Saunders -2 $46,996
T26 Graeme McDowell -2 $46,996
T37 Branden Grace -1 $33,120
T37 Tommy Fleetwood -1 $33,120
T37 Charles Howell III -1 $33,120
T37 Luke Donald -1 $33,120
T41 Bryson DeChambeau E $24,516
T41 Troy Merritt E $24,516
T41 Kevin Streelman E $24,516
T41 Pat Perez E $24,516
T41 Charley Hoffman E $24,516
T41 Brandon Harkins E $24,516
T41 Jonas Blixt E $24,516
T41 Nick Taylor E $24,516
T49 Austin Cook 1 $17,964
T49 Brendan Steele 1 $17,964
T49 Paul Casey 1 $17,964
T49 Chad Campbell 1 $17,964
T53 Tom Hoge 2 $16,437
T53 Benjamin Silverman 2 $16,437
T53 Li HaoTong 2 $16,437
T53 Retief Goosen 2 $16,437
T53 Martin Kaymer 2 $16,437
T53 Adam Schenk 2 $16,437
T53 Adam Scott 2 $16,437
T60 Ryan Blaum 3 $15,696
T60 J.B. Holmes 3 $15,696
T60 Harold Varner, III 3 $15,696
63 Kelly Kraft 4 $15,408
T64 Padraig Harrington 5 $15,120
T64 Ryan Armour 5 $15,120
T64 Sean O'Hair 5 $15,120
67 Martin Piller 6 $14,832
T68 Thomas Pieters 7 $14,400
T68 Greg Chalmers 7 $14,400
T68 Abraham Ancer 7 $14,400
T68 Tyrone van Aswegen 7 $14,400
T68 Charl Schwartzel 7 $14,400
T73 Vijay Singh 8 $13,896
T73 Chez Reavie 8 $13,896
T75 Sang-Moon Bae 10 $13,608
T75 David Lingmerth 10 $13,608
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After Further Review: Haas crash strikes a chord

By Golf Channel DigitalFebruary 19, 2018, 2:39 am

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

On the horrifying car crash involving Bill Haas ...

I spent a lot of time this week thinking about Bill Haas. He was the passenger in a car crash that killed a member of his host family. That man, 71-year-old Mark Gibello, was a successful businessman in Pacific Palisades, Calif., and a new friend.

Haas escaped without any major injuries, but he withdrew from the Genesis Open to return home to Greenville, S.C. When he’ll return to the Tour is anyone’s guess. It could be a while, as he grapples with the many emotions after surviving that horrifying crash – seriously, check out the photos – while the man next to him did not.

The entire Haas clan is some of the nicest people you’ll ever meet. Wish them the best in their recovery. – Ryan Lavner

On TIger Woods' missed cut at the Genesis Open ...

After missing the cut at the Genesis Open by more than a few car lengths, Tiger Woods appeared to take his early exit in stride. Perhaps that in and of itself is a form of progress.

Years ago, a second-round 76 with a tattered back-nine scorecard would have elicited a wide range of emotions. But none of them would have been particularly tempered, or optimistic, looking ahead to his next start. At age 42, though, Woods has finally ceded that a win-or-bust mentality is no longer helpful or productive.

The road back from his latest surgery will be a winding one, mixed with both ups and downs. His return at Torrey Pines qualified as the former, while his trunk slam at Riviera certainly served as the latter. There will surely be more of both in the coming weeks and months, and Woods’ ability to stomach the rough patches could prove pivotal for his long-term prognosis. - Will Gray

On the debate over increased driving distance on the PGA Tour ...

The drumbeat is only going to get louder as the game’s best get longer. On Sunday, Bubba Watson pounded his way to his 10th PGA Tour title at the Genesis Open and the average driving distance continues to climb.

Lost in the debate over driving distances and potential fixes, none of which seem to be simple, is a beacon of sanity, Riviera Country Club’s par-4 10th hole. The 10th played just over 300 yards for the week and yet yielded almost as many bogeys (86) as birdies (87) with a 4.053 stroke average.

That ranks the 10th as the 94th toughest par 4 on Tour this season, ahead of behemoths like the 480-yard first at Waialae and 549-yard 17th at Kapalua. Maybe the game doesn’t need new rules that limit how far the golf ball goes, maybe it just needs better-designed golf holes. - Rex Hoggard

On the depth of LPGA talent coming out of South Korea ...

The South Korean pipeline to the LPGA shows no signs of drying up any time soon. Jin Young Ko, 22, won her LPGA debut as a tour member Sunday at the ISPS Handa Women’s Australian Open, and Hyejin Choi, 18, nearly won the right to claim LPGA membership there.

The former world No. 1 amateur who just turned pro finished second playing on a sponsor exemption. Sung Hyun Park, who shared Rolex Player of the Year honors with So Yeon Ryu last year, is set to make her 2018 debut this week at the Honda LPGA Thailand.

And Inbee Park is set to make her return to the LPGA in two weeks at the HSBC Women’s World Championship after missing most of last year due to injury. The LPGA continues to go through South Korea no matter where this tour goes. - Randall Mell