Park faces uphill battle at St. Andrews


ST. ANDREWS, Scotland – Inbee Park won a marathon of major-championship golf on a Sunday earlier this year.

If she’s going to win the Ricoh Women’s British Open to become the first man or woman to win four professional major championships in a single season, she may have to do it again.

With Saturday’s third round interrupted by a suspension of play because of high winds across the Old Course, Sunday looms as long, hard road to a trophy.

Na Yeon Choi, the leader halfway through the championship, was among 14 players who had not even teed off when play was suspended at 12:33 p.m. local time. At 10-under 134, Choi remains a shot ahead of Miki Saiki and two ahead of Morgan Pressel.

Back in June, Park won the Wegmans LPGA Championship playing 36 holes on Sunday following a weather suspension of Saturday’s third round. When Park won at Rochester, however, she started Sunday’s marathon finish tied for second just two shots off the lead.

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Park will begin Sunday seven shots off the lead, one closer to Choi than she started on Saturday. Park rolled in a 30-foot putt for birdie at the third hole to cut into Choi’s lead before play was suspended after Park made a par at the fourth hole.

The LGU suspended play shortly after Park called a rules official to the fourth green because her ball had moved an inch or so in the wind while she was stepping to a 5-foot putt for par. There was no penalty. With so much history potentially hanging in the balance for Park, the suspension of play was curious in that it came within five minutes of Park calling a rules official.

Susan Simpson, head of golf operations for the LGU, said Park’s issue was among a small flurry of issues that led to halting play.

“We got five calls within the space of a few minutes,” Simpson said. “It all happened within a short period of time. There was a gust of almost 40 mph, and with that flat, singular gust, all the balls moved on the five calls we had, and we suspended play immediately.” 

Just nine players finished their third round when the horn blew suspending play. While officials waited for conditions to improve, they never did, leading to the announcement at 6 p.m. that play was suspended for the day.

Simpson said Sunday will have its challenges.

“It’s still going to be windy tomorrow,” she said. “Hopefully, not as windy as today, but there’s no let-up in it. Tomorrow morning, it’s still going to be very breezy.”

Simpson is hoping a champion will be crowned Sunday evening, but the LGU is prepared to go beyond Sunday.

“This is a major championship, and every endeavor will be made to play 72 holes,” Simpson said. “If we have to go to Monday, we will go to Monday.”

A number of players and caddies questioned why play wasn’t suspended earlier with even the first groups playing most of their rounds through the toughest conditions.

“They definitely could have called it earlier,” said Brittany Lincicome.

Lincicome lipped out a putt at the seventh hole and was walking up to knock it in when her ball blew 6 feet away from the hole. Lincicome said balls moved on more than one green as she played with Sandra Gal.

One caddie said players had trouble keeping their balls on their tees at the 12th hole.

Cristie Kerr's ball blew about 2 feet as she approached a putt on the eighth green.

Kerr was among nine players able to complete their rounds before play was suspended. With the winds blowing hard early, she played nearly all of her round in that weather. Kerr shot 75, equaling the low score among the nine players who finished. Lydia Ko also shot 75.

While Kerr acknowledged play could probably have been suspended an hour to 90 minutes earlier, she did not expect play to be suspended at all.

“Balls were moving on the greens, but I never thought they would delay it,” Kerr said. “When the horn blew while we were on the 18th hole, I thought somebody had stolen something from the pro shop.”

Of those nine players who were able to finish, three of them didn’t break 80.

Simpson said the wind moved balls despite efforts to slow down the greens. She said the 11th green out on the edge of the course wasn’t mowed after Friday’s play. She said the green speeds measured 9.4 on Saturday, slower than the 10 measured on Friday.

While there were reports of some players and caddies wanting the third round to be wiped out and re-started, the committee decided to preserve the interrupted round.

“It was part of the discussion, but it was quickly ruled out,” Simpson said. “We don’t feel that’s fair to the players who have completed their rounds.”