Park overcomes her own doubts

By Randall MellJuly 1, 2013, 1:24 am

SOUTHAMPTON, N.Y. – Inbee Park isn’t quite as unflappable as we all think.

Beneath that wonderfully cool countenance, there really is mortal vulnerability.

In fact, on the eve of the final round of the U.S. Women’s Open, Park was tossing and turning on the 54-hole lead in the four-bedroom house she was renting with her parents in the Hamptons. It was about 11 p.m., and the weight of all the history awaiting her Sunday at Sebonack Golf Club was finally coming down hard.

Unable to sleep, Park opened the door of her bedroom and waved for her mother to come inside for a talk. Park confessed she was feeling nervous trying to become the first player since Babe Zaharias in 1950 to win the first three majors in a season. She confessed that she was worried about letting down friends and fellow South Koreans. She confessed she was worried about disappointing her family.

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Photos: Inbee Park through the years

“Mom?” Park asked Sung Kim, her mother. “Do you think I can really do this?”

Sung Kim is telling this story early Sunday evening behind the 18th green. She is beaming with joy and pride because her daughter is holding the answer in her hands. Inbee is down on the green hoisting the Harton S. Semple trophy over her head as the 68th U.S. Women’s Open champion. Inbee is beaming, too, with dozens of South Koreans who live in the New York area wildly chanting while waving their homeland’s national colors.

“I will not forget this moment,” Sung Kim says through a friend who is translating. “I am so honored to be here. I am so proud of her.”

So was Gun Gyu, Inbee’s father, as he mingled amid the jubilance with the Great Peconic Bay as the backdrop.

“I just hope this is not a dream,” Park said afterward with her trophy sparkling before her. “I don’t want to wake up tomorrow and have to play the final round again.”

Park, 24, moved into special company becoming the first woman in six decades to start the season with a trifecta of major titles. She made history joining Zaharias, Mickey Wright (1961) and Pat Bradley (1986) as the only women to win three majors in a season. She is threatening to make more history now with the possibility she could become the first man or woman to win the modern Grand Slam, a sweep of all the majors in a single season.

Through four rounds, Park seemed delightfully oblivious to all the hype in her march to history, but that was never true. She knew what was at stake. While she never betrayed the least bit of angst between the ropes, never betrayed nerves or doubt, she harbored them.

On Saturday night, she shared them with her mother.

“Mom, if something happens tomorrow . . . don’t expect too much,” Inbee said.

Sung Kim said she reassured her daughter. She shared feelings she hoped would help Inbee.

“It’s OK,” Sung Kim told her. “Don’t worry. If you win, it’s OK. If you lose, it’s OK. We are just so happy either way.”

Park made an entire nation proud closing out the victory with a 2-over-par 74 on another difficult setup at Sebonack. Even with four bogeys over two birdies, Park was never really threatened. She started the day with a four-shot lead over I.K. Kim (74), and that’s how the day ended.

At 8-under 280, Park won her sixth LPGA title this season, her third in a row, and her second U.S. Women’s Open title.

The victory pads Park’s lead as No. 1 in the Rolex world rankings and fuels a buzz over the women’s return to St. Andrews, the home of golf, for the Ricoh Women’s British Open in the first week of Augusta.

It didn’t take long for Park to be asked about the next leg in her quest to win the Grand Slam. Given the LPGA added the Evian Masters as its fifth major this year, there promises to be some debate about whether she has to win four or five in a row to claim a Grand Slam.

“It’s too early to think about the next one,” Park said. “I really want to enjoy the moment.

“I’m just glad I can give it a try at St. Andrews. That’s going to be a great experience, whether I do it or not, I’m just a lucky person.”

With all the history she’s making, Park was never really comfortable talking about it all week. She said Friday that she was trying her best not to think about it because of the pressure it created.

Her caddie, Brad Beecher, said they didn’t talk about it all week, not until the end was within sight.

“We didn’t talk about it at all, until walking after hitting that third shot [at the 18th hole],” Beecher said. “I just said, `Inbee, you are about to join history. Enjoy this walk.’ I enjoyed it, too. It was pretty darn special.”

Beecher has toted Park’s bag for six years. He has watched her star ascend again after all the struggles that ensued after her first U.S. Women’s Open title in 2008, back when she was just 19, the youngest winner of the championship. She didn’t win another LPGA title for four years after that.

“I don’t think she could even put words to this, what she’s accomplished,” Beecher said. “I can’t even put words to it.”

It’s a story with more chapters promising to be written, more history.

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Ciganda, S.Y. Kim share lead in Shanghai

By Associated PressOctober 20, 2018, 9:28 am

SHANGHAI - Carlota Ciganda of Spain shot a 5-under 67 Saturday to share the lead with Sei Young Kim after the third round of the LPGA Shanghai.

Ciganda carded her fifth birdie of the day on the par-4 18th to finish tied with overnight leader Kim at 11-under 205. Kim shot a 71 with four bogeys and five birdies.

Ciganda is attempting to win her third LPGA title and first since the 2016 season, when she won two tournaments in a one-month span. Kim is chasing her eighth career LPGA win and second title of the 2018 season.

''I want to win because I didn't win last year,'' Ciganda said. ''I love playing in Asia. It's good for long hitters, playing quite long, so I'm quite comfortable.''

Full-field scores from the Buick LPGA Shanghai

Angel Yin also birdied the final hole for a 68 and was a further stroke back with Brittany Altomare (69), Danielle Kang (71) and Ariya Jutanugarn (71).

Yin and Altomare have yet to break through for their first LPGA win. A win in Shanghai would make either player the ninth first-time winner of the 2018 season, which would tie 2016 for the third highest number of first-time winners in a season in LPGA history.

''I love competing,'' Yin said. ''That's why I'm playing, right? I'm excited to be in contention again going into Sunday.''

Local favorite Yu Liu was seventh after offsetting a lone bogey with four birdies for a 69.

Paula Creamer also shot a 69 and shared eighth at 8 under with Minjee Lee (70) and Bronte Law (71).

The tournament is the second of five being played in South Korea, Japan, China and Taiwan in the LPGA's annual Asian swing.

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Koepka's pursuers have no illusions about catching him

By Nick MentaOctober 20, 2018, 8:50 am

Ahead by four, wielding his driver like Thor's hammer, Brooks Koepka is 18 holes from his third victory in five months and his first ascent to the top of the Official World Golf Ranking.

The tournament isn't over. No one is handing him the trophy and updating the OWGR website just yet. But it will likely take some combination of a meltdown and low round from someone in the chase pack to prevent a Koepka coronation Sunday in South Korea.

Thirteen under for the week, the three-time major champion will start the final round four shots ahead of his playing partners, Ian Poulter and Scott Piercy, and five ahead of six more players at minus-8.

As is his nature, Poulter figures to be undaunted. The 42-year-old is fresh off a Sunday singles victory over Dustin Johnson at the Ryder Cup and in the midst of a career renaissance, having broken a five-year winless drought earlier this year. In one sense, it's Europe vs. the United States again, but this isn't match play, and Koepka, a guy who doesn't need a head start, has spotted himself a four-shot advantage.

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"Tomorrow I'm going to need to make a few birdies. Obviously Brooks is in cruise control right now and obviously going to need a shoot a low one," Poulter conceded. "Do what I'm doing, just enjoy [it]. Obviously try and make as many birdies as I can and see how close we get."

Perez, in the group at 8 under par, isn't giving up, but like Poulter, he's aware of the reality of his situation.

"We're chasing Brooks, who of course obviously is playing phenomenally," he said. "A lot of the long hitters now when they get in contention, they hit that driver and they're really hard to catch. I'm not worried about it too much. It's going to be harder for me tomorrow than him, so I'm going to try and go out and just do my thing, hit some shots, hopefully hit some close and make some putts and we'll see. I don't expect him to come backwards, but hopefully I can try to go catch him."

Gary Woodland, also 8 under par, summed up the predicament best when he alluded to Koepka's perhaps advantageously aloof demeanor.

"You obviously want to get off to a good start and put pressure on him as soon as you can," he said. "You know, Brooks doesn't seem like he cares too much, and he's playing so good, so you're going to have to go out and post a number."

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Koepka has his chance 'to earn' his way to No. 1

By Nick MentaOctober 20, 2018, 8:09 am

There won't need to be any wonky math involved. He won't have to settle for finally reaching the the top via some kind of mathematical reset while he's sitting at home on the couch (or more likely working out in the gym).

No, Brooks Koepka on Sunday in South Korea will have a chance to ascend to No. 1 in the Official World Golf Ranking the way every player would most want to - with a victory.

On the strength of a bogey-free round of 5-under 67 Saturday, Koepka will enter the final round of the CJ Cup four clear of Ian Poulter and Scott Piercy, with six more players five behind.

The tournament is Koepka's to lose, and so too is the No. 1 ranking. So long as Justin Thomas doesn't somehow defend his title from 12 shots back, Koepka can supplant Dustin Johnson atop the rankings with a win or a solo second-place finish.

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"It was something I wanted to do. I always wanted to become World No. 1 in a week that I was playing," Koepka said Saturday. "I thought like I could really earn it and not have a week off where it just so happens that you bump up. No, it would be very special, and to do it here would be nice and hopefully get to world No. 1 and cap it off with a win, I don't think there would be much better."

It would be a fitting end to this breakthrough year for Koepka, who successfully defended his U.S. Open title and then added his third major victory at the PGA Championship en route to claiming the PGA Tour's Player of the Year Award. Oddly enough, considering his status a three-time major winner and an impending No. 1, this would be Koepka's fifth Tour victory but only his second in a non-major; his only regular Tour win to date was his first, at the 2015 Waste Management Phoenix Open.

"My confidence has always been pretty high," Koepka said. "Anytime you can win three majors you're going to be feeling pretty good about yourself. To do what I've done over the last two years has been special, but I'm looking to build on that."

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Koepka ahead by four, with No. 1 ranking in his grasp

By Nick MentaOctober 20, 2018, 5:48 am

Following a closing birdie and a third-round 67 at Nine Bridges, Brooks Koepka will take a four-shot lead over Ian Poulter and Scott Piercy into final round of the CJ Cup. Here's how Koepka separated himself from the field in South Korea.

Leaderboard: Koepka (-13), Piercy (-9), Poulter (-9), Rafa Cabrera Bello (-8), Cameron Smith (-8), Jaime Lovemark (-8), Pat Perez (-8), Gary Woodland (-8), Chez Reavie (-8)

What it means: Koepka is in search of his fifth PGA Tour victory and – believe it or not – only his second non-major. The three-time major champion’s only other win came all the way back in February 2015, at the Waste Management Phoenix Open. One off the lead to start the day, Koepka opened with eight straight pars and birdied Nos. 9 and 10 to take the outright lead at 10 under par. He added three more circles at 14, 17 and 18 to close out a bogey-free round of 5 under and go ahead by ahead by four. He'll be chased on Sunday by Piercy, a four-time PGA Tour winner who won the Zurich Classic earlier this year alongside Billy Horschel, and by Poulter, who ended a five-year worldwide winless drought back in April and is coming off a 2-2 performance at the Ryder Cup, with a Sunday singles victory over current world No. 1 Dustin Johnson. Speaking of which, unless Justin Thomas finds a way to win this tournament from 12 back, Koepka will for the first time ascend to No. 1 in the Official World Golf Ranking with a win or a solo second-place finish.

Round of the day: After contending last week at the CIMB, Shubankhar Sharma rebounded from opening rounds of 74 and 75 with a nine-birdie, 8-under 64 to move up 45 spots into a tie for 26th through 54 holes.

Best of the rest: Four players – Rafa Cabrera Bello, Ted Potter Jr., Jason Day and Brendan Steele – shot 7-under 65 Saturday. Day played his first four holes in 2 over and his final 14 in 9 under.

Biggest disappointment: The only previous winner of this event, world No. 4 Justin Thomas entered the week with a chance to take back the No. 1 ranking with a successful title defense. But rounds of 73-70-72 have him 1 under for the week. Thomas played his back nine in 1 over Saturday with six pars, a birdie, a quadruple bogey and a closing eagle.

Shot of the day: Koepka flying his tee shot 330 yards to the front edge of the green at the par-4 14th and going on to two-putt for birdie.