ST. ANDREWS, Scotland – Inbee Park’s quest is more daunting now.
There is more to overcome trying to make history on the Old Course at St. Andrews this weekend than there was at tournament’s start.
The mountain is harder to climb after a round of 1-over-par 73 Friday left her eight shots behind a fierce front-runner with a host of major championship winners also stacked up in front of her at the Ricoh Women’s British Open.
Park is tied for 22nd in her bid to become the first man or woman to win four professional major championships in a single season.
There will be hard work trying to catch fellow South Korean Na Yeon Choi, whose 67 in the second round was brilliant in the heavy winds buffeting the Old Course. Choi knows how to close out leads. She won the U.S. Women’s Open last year, one of her 12 worldwide titles and her seven LPGA titles.
Park doesn’t just have to get past Choi. She has to get by a formidable cast of proven winners between her and Choi. She has to pass Morgan Pressel, Suzann Pettersen, Stacy Lewis, So Yeon Ryu and Paula Creamer. They’re all major championship winners.
“You have your usual contenders,” Lewis said. “The tough, gritty players are the ones up there. You have U.S. Open winners, major winners, but anybody under par is not out of this, depending what the weather does.”
Lewis is not discounting Park.
“She is not out of it,” Lewis said. “If it gets windy, she isn’t out of it.”
If Park is going to win, she will have to take a different route to the trophy than she did winning the first three majors of the year. At the Kraft Nabisco, she led by one shot after two rounds. At the Wegmans LPGA Championship, she was tied for second just two shots back going into the weekend. At the U.S. Women’s Open, she led by two halfway through.
Make no mistake, Park is feeling the weight of history, the pressure that comes with trying to make history. She said as much after Friday’s round. That doesn’t mean her knees are buckling. In fact, she believes it’s making her stronger, that it will make her stronger.
Park revealed something about herself again after the second round with her ability to step back and see the big picture. She keeps showing us how she looks at things differently, and maybe that’s why she seems to play with an unshakeable sense of peace, even though she tells us she isn’t as unflappable as we all think. Her perspective isn’t like most 25-year-olds. She sounds like someone who relishes the journey more than the destination.
“Whether I win or I don’t, the last two days have been some great moments,” Park said. “If I can handle this pressure, I will not be afraid of anything in my career.”
Park went from ESPN to Golf Channel to the BBC and South Korean TV after her round before then being cornered by writers. She was asked if the attention can all be too much, and she smiled. She said she was trying to embrace the experience and all that goes with it.
“This is pretty much the only week I’m going to get this much, so I should enjoy this moment,” Park said. “I’m trying to enjoy every moment I’m here.”
The golf has been tough with Park’s driver not cooperating the way she would like, though her 73 Friday was respectable in the windy conditions. She sees lessons in days like these. She sees experience. She sees that big picture.
“When you experience something big like this, some kind of big pressure like this, you’re just really not afraid of any kind of pressure,” Park said. “How can it get bigger than this? Anything is going to be less than this.”
Park’s day started roughly after she pulled her opening tee shot way left. Given the trouble she had with her driver late in Thursday’s round, it was disconcerting. She missed the first green and opened with a bogey.
Her caddie, Brad Beecher, liked the way Park played the back nine and the way she finished with a birdie on the 18th for a second straight day.
“She really found her swing on the back nine and hit a lot of solid golf shots,” Beecher said. “Obviously, it was a lot tougher out there.”
Park isn’t counting herself out. This is St. Andrews. The winds of fortune can change overnight. The way the weather changes around here, an early tee time with a break in the morning weather might be all she needs to jumpstart her quest.
“There are still two days to go,” Beecher said. “If we are out a little bit earlier tomorrow, we can press the number.”
Park sees possibilities in the big picture.
“You just never know what’s going to happen the next two days, especially if the conditions get tougher,” Park said. “I think anything could happen out here.”