Hall of Famers appreciate Park's dominance

By Randall MellJuly 1, 2013, 5:47 pm

SOUTHAMPTON, N.Y. – They’ve made history, and they know the challenges and obstacles that must be overcome to do so.

LPGA Hall of Famers watched Inbee Park’s victory Sunday at the U.S. Women’s Open with a special appreciation for what they were seeing.

By joining Babe Zaharias as the only women to win the first three major championships of the year, Park brings a new buzz to the women’s game with her bid to become the first man or woman to win four, and possibly five, professional majors in a single season.

“Just to win one major in your career is a big deal,” Hall of Famer Beth Daniel said. “To win three in a row, that’s an enormous feat. I don’t think people realize the magnitude of what she’s doing.”

Hall of Famer Nancy Lopez was at Sebonack marveling at the history being made.

“To win the first three majors of the year, I never even thought about trying to do that,” Lopez said. “You set majors as a goal, but to win them, three of them in a row, that’s tough. We have some great players and a great tour and so to do that is amazing.”

Hall of Famer Hollis Stacy relished seeing Park’s run bring a focus back on some of the game’s greatest players.

“It’s wonderful to watch history in the making and how it’s brought attention back to what Babe Zaharias and Mickey Wright and other players have done,” Stacy said. “It’s definitely very special.”

Hall of Famer JoAnne Carner was impressed with the sense of peace Park plays with whether she’s making birdies or bogeys.

“I think it’s fantastic,” Carner said. “She doesn’t crack. I don’t know how she holds it together like that. I thought she was folding with those three bogeys in a row on Saturday, but she came right back with two birdies.”

Hall of Famer Carol Mann loved that in Park, too. She believes personalities are factors that help and hinder winning majors in the sense that so many players have to overcome their nature to play their best under pressure. She called Pat Bradley and Patty Sheehan “downhill racers” in how their personalities were intensely wired. Mann respects that they won so many big events because she believes that kind of internal wiring gets in the way of players under pressure. Mann thinks Park’s even-keel emotional state gives her an advantage.

“I think she has less of herself to overcome,” Mann said. “She is one of those players who seems to play with a heart that beats 40 or 50 times a minute.”

Daniel also likes the cool control Park exhibits and believes it makes her more formidable.

“I don’t think people truly appreciate the pressure a player is under trying to win a major championship,” Daniel said. “Inbee handles that so well, but she can’t be that way inside. You have to be churning a little bit. There are just too many things happening not to realize the magnitude of what you’re doing.”

But that only makes Daniel appreciate Park’s emotional control even more.

“I didn’t want my fellow competitors to see how nervous I was,” Daniel said. “You’re calm on the outside, but your stomach is churning. She feels it. Believe me, if you don’t get nervous, you don’t care. But she’s calm on the outside, and this is the image she’s portraying to the world. You don’t want your competition to know you’re nervous. It’s a crack in the armor.”

It wouldn’t have surprised Daniel to hear Inbee Park’s mother on Sunday night reveal that her daughter was nervous and wrestling with doubt on the eve of her U.S. Women’s Open victory and yet Park never gave the world beyond her family a glimpse of it.

“I think it’s incredible the way she’s handling the pressure and handling herself,” Daniel said.

Daniel watched Rolex world No. 1 Park’s grouping with No. 2 Stacy Lewis and No. 3 Suzann Pettersen with special interest over the first two rounds. Daniel respects Lewis’ game and knows it well from their South Florida ties. She said she could see the impact Park’s play had on her playing partners in that special pairing. Park finished the first two rounds 12 shots ahead of Lewis and 19 ahead of Pettersen.

“She pretty much demoralized them,” Daniel said. “Inbee was making everything with her putter. You could see the effect that had on Stacy in her body language. It was like, `How is she making all these putts and I’m not?’

“People get on a roll and play with confidence. Inbee is playing with so much confidence. I don’t think she thinks anyone can beat her. Without talking to her, I would think her confidence has to be as high as it’s ever been.”

Nobody knows how long Park can be this dominant, but the curiosity is good for the women's game.

“People get in a stretches of playing so well,” Daniel said. “Sometimes it lasts years, sometimes it lasts a couple weeks. When you’re in that place, you can make mistakes and they don’t bother you. You know it’s going to turn around. It’s the greatest feeling in sports, but you can’t over think it. If you do, you can lose it.”

Golf’s Hall of Famers will be closely watching to see how long Park can ride this history-making run.

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Garcia leads as Valderrama Masters extends to Monday

By Will GrayOctober 21, 2021, 3:52 pm

Weather continues to be the enemy at the Andalucia Valderrama Masters, where Sergio Garcia remains in front as the tournament heads for a Monday finish.

European Tour officials had already ceded the fact that 72 holes would not be completed this week in Spain, but players were not even able to finish 54 holes before another set of thunderstorms rolled in Sunday afternoon to once again halt play. Garcia remains in front at 10 under, having played seven holes of the third round in even par, while Lee Westwood is alone in second at 7 under.

Officials had previously stated an intention to play at least 54 holes, even if that meant extending the tournament to Monday, given that this is the final chance for many players to earn Race to Dubai points in an effort to secure European Tour cards for 2019. Next week's WGC-HSBC Champions will be the final event of the regular season, followed by a three-event final series.

Full-field scores from the Andalucia Valderrama Masters

Garcia, who won the tournament last year, started the third round with a four-shot lead over Ashley Chesters. He balanced one birdie with one bogey and remains in position for his first worldwide victory since the Asian Tour's Singapore Open in January.

Westwood, who has his son Sam on the bag this week, made the biggest charge up the leaderboard with four birdies over his first eight holes. He'll have 10 holes to go when play resumes at 9:10 a.m. local time Monday as he looks to win for the first time since the 2015 Indonesian Masters.

Shane Lowry and Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano are tied for third at 6 under, four shots behind Garcia with 10 holes to play, while Chesters made two double bogeys over his first four holes to drop into a tie for sixth.

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Austin wins Champions tour's playoff opener

By Associated PressOctober 21, 2018, 9:35 pm

RICHMOND, Va. -- Woody Austin knew Bernhard Langer was lurking throughout the final nine holes, and he did just enough to hold him off.

Austin shot a 3-under 69 for a one-stroke victory Sunday in the PGA Tour Champions' playoff-opening Dominion Energy Charity Classic.

Langer, the defending tournament champion and series points leader, made the turn one shot off the lead, but eight straight pars kept him from ever gaining a share of the lead. Austin's birdie from 6 feet on the closing hole allowed him to hang on for the victory.

''It seemed like he couldn't quite get it over the hump,'' Austin said about Langer, who also birdied No. 18. ''I'm not going to feel bad for the guy. The guy's kind of had things go his way for the last 12 years. Now he sees what it's like to have it happen.''

The 54-year-old Austin finished with an 11-under total for three rounds at The Country Club of Virginia's James River Course. He won his fourth senior title and first since 2016, and said windy and cool conditions that made scoring difficult played to his advantage.

''I was happy to see it. I really enjoy a difficult test,'' he said. ''... I enjoy even par meaning something. That's my game.''

Langer closed with a 70. The winner last week in North Carolina, the 61-year-old German star made consecutive birdies to finish the front nine, but had several birdie putts slide by on the back.

Full-field scores from the Dominion Energy Charity Classic

''I made a couple important ones and then I missed a couple important ones, especially the one on 16,'' Langer said. ''I hit three really good shots and had about a 6-footer, something like that, and I just didn't hit it hard enough. It broke away.''

Austin dropped a stroke behind Jay Haas and Stephen Ames with a bogey on the par-3 14th. He got that back with a birdie from about 5 feet on the par-4 15th and then got some good fortune on the final hole when his firmly struck chip hit the flag and stopped about 6 feet away.

''I always say usually the person that wins gets a break on Sunday,'' he said. ''That was my break.''

The 64-year-old Haas, the second-round leader after a 65, had a 74 to tie for third with Fran Quinn (69) and Kent Jones (70) at 9 under. Haas was bidding to become the oldest winner in the history of the tour for players 50 and older.

''Disappointed, for sure,'' Haas said. ''Not going to get many more opportunities like this, but it gives me hope, too, that I can still do it.''

The top 72 players qualified for the Charles Schwab Cup Playoffs opener. The top 54 move on to the Invesco QQQ Championship next week in Thousand Oaks, California, and the top 36 after that will advance to the season-ending Charles Schwab Cup Championship in Phoenix.

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After Further Review: American success stories

By Golf Channel DigitalOctober 21, 2018, 8:35 pm

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

On the global nature of Koepka's rise to No. 1 ...

Brooks Koepka is an American superstar, and a two-time winner of his national open. But his rise to world No. 1 in, of all places, South Korea, emphasizes the circuitous, global path he took to the top.

After winning the CJ Cup by four shots, Koepka was quick to remind reporters that he made his first-ever start as a pro in Switzerland back in 2012. He cracked the top 500 for the first time with a win in Spain, and he broke into the top 100 after a good week in the Netherlands.

Koepka languished on the developmental Challenge Tour for a year before earning a promotion to the European Tour, and he didn’t make a splash in the States until contending at the 2014 U.S. Open at Pinehurst.

It’s a testament to Koepka’s adaptability and raw talent that he can handle the heights of Crans-Montana as well as the slopes of Shinnecock Hills or rough of Nine Bridges. And as the scene shifts to China next week, it highlights the global nature of today’s game – and the fact that the best in the world can rise to the occasion on any continent. - Will Gray

On the resurgence of American women  ...

American women are on a nice roll again. Danielle Kang’s victory Sunday at the Buick LPGA Shanghai was the third by an American over the last five events. Plus, Annie Park and Marina Alex, emerging American talents looking for their second victories this season, tied for second. So did American Brittany Altomare. Two years ago, Americans won just twice, their fewest victories in a single season in LPGA history. Overall, women from the United States have won seven times this season.

The Americans are making their move with Stacy Lewis on maternity leave and with Lexi Thompson, the highest ranked American in the world, still looking for her first victory this year. Yes, the South Koreans have won nine times this season, but with four LPGA events remaining in 2018 the Americans actually have a chance to be the winningest nation in women’s golf this year. With all the grief they’ve received the last few years, that would be a significant feat. - Randall Mell

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In Buick win, Kang overcame demons of mind and spirit

By Randall MellOctober 21, 2018, 3:33 pm

Danielle Kang beat three of the most formidable foes in golf Sunday to win the Buick LPGA Shanghai.




Kang overcame these demons of mind and spirit to win for the second time on tour, backing up her KPMG Women’s PGA Championship victory last year.

“I’ve been going through a lot mentally,” Kang said.

Kang birdied four of the last eight holes to close with a 3-under-par 69, coming from one shot back in the final round to win. At 13-under 275, she finished two shots ahead of a pack of seven players, including world No. 2 Ariya Jutanugarn (71) and former world No. 1 Lydia Ko (66).

It hasn’t been easy for Kang trying to build on her major championship breakthrough last year. She started the fall Asian swing having missed three cuts in a row, five in her last six starts.

“I had to go through swing changes,” Kang said. “I had the swing yips, the putting yips, everything possibly you could think of.

“I was able to get over a lot of anxiety I was feeling when I was trying to hit a golf ball. This week I just kept trusting my golf game.”

Through her swoon, Kang said she was struggling to get the club back, that she was getting mentally stuck to where she could not begin her takeaway. She sought out Butch Harmon, back at her Las Vegas home, for help. She said tying for third at the KEB Hana Bank Championship last week felt like a victory, though she was still battling her demons there.

“Anxiety over tee balls,” Kang said. “People might wonder what I'm doing. I actually can't pull the trigger. It has nothing to do with the result. Having to get over that last week was incredible for me. Even on the first round, one shot took me, I think, four minutes.”

Kang, who turned 26 on Saturday, broke through to win last year under swing coach David Leadbetter, but she began working with Harmon while struggling in the second half this year.

Buick LPGA Shanghai: Articles, photos and videos

“I was actually very frustrated, even yesterday,” Kang said. “Things just weren't going my way. The biggest thing that Butch tells me is to stay out of my own way. I just couldn't do that. If I had a short putt, I just kept doubting myself. I couldn't putt freely.”

Kang said her anger and frustration built up again on the front nine Sunday. She made the turn at 1 over for the round. She said her caddie, Oliver Brett, helped her exorcise some anger. After the ninth hole, he pulled her aside.

This is how Kang remembered the conversation:

Brett: “Whatever you need to do to let your anger out and restart and refresh, you need to do that now.”

Kang: “Cameras are everywhere. I just want to hit the bag really hard.”

Brett: “Here's a wedge. Just smash it.”

Kang did.

“Honestly, I thank him for that,” Kang said. “He told me there are a lot birdies out there. I regrouped, and we pretended we started the round brand new on the 10th hole. Then things changed and momentum started going my way. I started hitting it closer and felt better over the putts.”

Kang said the victory was all about finding a better place mentally.

“I'm just so happy to be where I'm at today,” Kang said. “I'm just happy that I won.

“More so than anything, I'm finally at a place where I'm peaceful and happy with my game, with my life . . . . I hope I win more. I did the best I can. I'm going to keep working hard and keep giving myself chances and keep putting myself in contention. I'll win more. I'll play better.”