Would a fourth major give Park a Grand Slam?

By Ryan LavnerJuly 1, 2013, 3:45 pm

What a year for the LPGA to add a fifth major. 

Now that Inbee Park has completed the rarest of hat tricks, winning the U.S. Women’s Open, her third major in a row, in a dazzling display of robotic consistency, we head to the home of golf wondering what, exactly, is at stake there.

Is Park attempting to complete the traditional Grand Slam … or is she trying to capture the fourth leg of the newly created Super Slam? 

Here’s another question, this one with no clear answer: If Park wins the British Open, but not the Evian Masters, then what will it all mean, historically? 

“It would be great if I could win five, but I still think four means a Grand Slam,” she said Sunday night. “I think four out of five is very big.” 

Very big, indeed, but it’s an unsettling scenario for the LPGA brass, which two years ago announced that the women were joining the likes of the Champions Tour and creating a quintet of majors. 

The Evian is a fine event. It’s played in mid-September. It’s played on a scenic course in France. There’s a hefty purse. But it doesn't deserve to be a major, not yet anyway, and certainly not just because the title sponsor pushed for a status change and the LPGA (after giving tournament officials a lengthy list of required changes) finally relented. 

This is relevant now, of course, because Park is on the verge of transcending gender and rewriting the sport’s record books, no matter if her season ends in an Almost Slam, a Grand Slam, a Super Slam or a Golf Historian Body Slam. 

The hottest athlete in all of sports just tamed the toughest test in women’s golf, thumping the nearest competitor by four strokes and the rest of the field by seven, and the possibilities seem endless after her stroll at Sebonack. 

Consider this: In her last 28 tournaments, Park has eight wins (including three majors), six runners-up and 20 top-10s, a stretch that conjures memories of Tiger Woods’ sustained brilliance earlier this century. As she said after her sixth title of the season, “It’s scary to think what I’m really capable of doing.” 

Indeed, at the Aug. 1-4 British Open, Park, 24, will attempt to become the first player, male or female, to win four professional majors in a calendar year. 

Regardless of what happens on the famed links, she already has matched Babe Zaharias, who won the first three (and only) majors in 1950, and Mickey Wright (1961) and Pat Bradley (1986), both of whom captured three majors in a season, albeit nonconsecutively. On the men’s side, only Ben Hogan (1953) and Tiger Woods (2000) have won three majors in a season in the Masters era. That’s it. 

What looms now, however, is a different kind of challenge. The U.S. Open, which Park just won at 8-under 280, may be billed as the most grueling examination of skill, but the British is unquestionably the quirkiest and most difficult to win. It’s the major most affected by luck – the conditions, the draw, the bounces, everything. 

After all, that’s what derailed Woods in 2002. He arrived at Muirfield having won the year’s first two majors, and after 36 holes that year he was just two shots off the lead. But that Saturday he was blown off the course, signing for an 81 when the wind howled, the temperature dropped into the 30s and the sideways rain made standing upright, never mind shooting a decent score, a near-impossible feat. 

No other major promises such unpredictability. A miserable few hours can dramatically alter history. 

As competitors, that’s easier to digest because, essentially, it’s out of their control, as it was for Woods in ’02. But the possibility of a wind-blasted bid for the Slam should stress even Park’s most ardent supporters, especially since she’ll be back home in Korea the week before the British, celebrating what has been a record-smashing season. Already she concedes that she “might not get too much time to myself” that week, which would seem a warning sign with a major – a potentially historic major – on the horizon. 

Of course, Park has been so good, and so dominant, this season, a deviation from her usual pre-major routine might matter little; Angela Stanford on Sunday wondered whether the unflappable world No. 1 ever hits the ball sideways. Unfortunately for Stanford and others, the answer is not often, which makes the contenders’ task all the more daunting at the British. 

Though it remains the only major she has yet to win, Park has a solid record across the pond – four top-11 finishes in six years, including a (distant) runner-up last year at Royal Liverpool. 

Meanwhile, we wait to see if another challenger will emerge. Stacy Lewis is No. 2 in the Rolex Rankings but hasn’t performed well in the first three majors this season; Suzann Pettersen is immensely talented but maddeningly inconsistent; Yani Tseng, the former world No. 1 who vacuumed up four majors in 2010-11, hasn’t won a title of any kind in 15 months. Some other player, perhaps emboldened by the thought of denying history, could step forward and hoist the trophy. But not like this. Not if Park is on her game. 

In the run-up to the Open she’ll be bombarded with questions about the significance of her pursuit, about whether a victory there completes the Grand Slam or merely the fourth leg of the Super Slam. 

What’s not in dispute, however, is that another major title would mean Park has captured the career Grand Slam, at age 25, at St Andrews, no less. That’s where Woods wrapped up his own career slam, in 2000. And the way she’s been playing lately, it’s a fitting parallel.

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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

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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.

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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.

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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.