Park remaining calm amid Grand Slam storm

By Randall MellJuly 31, 2013, 6:56 pm

ST. ANDREWS, Scotland – Inbee Park was apparently born with cool equanimity in her genes.

The unshakeable sense of peace with which she plays this maddening game was a gift from her mother.

That’s what Sung Kim Park, Inbee’s mother, says with a wry smile.

“I made her that way,” Sung Kim said, rubbing her belly as if she were still pregnant with Inbee.

Sung Kim was good-naturedly joking, but she will tell you that her daughter seems to have been born with the gift of a serene disposition.

“She has always been like that, since a small child,” Sung Kim said.

Ricoh Women’s British Open: Articles, videos and photos

Park’s fellow LPGA pros don’t doubt that with Park teeing it up Thursday in a bid to win the Ricoh Women’s British Open and become the first man or woman to win four professional majors in one season. The weight of history is pressing down on Park, and even her closest friends couldn’t help wonder how she’s holding up under that.

“One thing I worried about is all the media attention she’s getting,” said So Yeon Ryu, who played a practice round with Park on Wednesday. “I worried about if she would lose concentration, but after playing with her today, I’m not worried anymore. She doesn’t look nervous or too excited. She is calm like she always is.”

Park seems so suited to St. Andrews and the Old Course. When she changed her swing a couple years ago with the help of her coach/fiancé, Gi Hyeob Nam, she lowered her ball flight. It should serve her well on the Old Course, where the winds can blow so hard off the North Sea. She also has a terrific short game. She said it’s a benefit from having been such a wild ball striker in her youth. Of course, she is also the best putter in the women’s game, a particularly adept lag putter, a vital skill on the Old Course’s monstrous greens.

The X factor this week is how all the building pressure to make history will affect her.

Hall of Famer Carol Mann thinks Park’s even temperament is a huge asset this week.

“She seems to have less of herself to overcome,” Mann said.

That observation cuts to the heart of what players face trying to win prizes built into monumental importance. So often, players get in their own way. Majors are so often lost more than they are won. It’s why so many players have sports psychologists.

Park has a sports psychologist, Sookyung Cho, but Park’s naturally easy temperament is a gift.

“I think that's been my personality forever, since I was a little kid,” Park said. “My emotions don't express so much on my face. That’s just how I play golf. It’s been working really good on the golf course. So, I think I found myself.”

Park says she feels nerves more than people think, but that’s hard for even her caddie to fathom. He said he has detected nerves in her just once.

“I have never seen her angry or emotional,” said Brad Beecher, who has been on Park’s bag for six years. “The only time I ever saw her nervous was at Malaysia last year, and I can’t tell you why.”

Park admirably handled the pressure at the U.S. Women’s Open last month. After making three consecutive bogeys in her Saturday round at Sebonack, and looking as if she were unraveling, she made back-to-back birdies. When she won the LPGA Championship in June, she blew her lead on the back nine in the final round with some wild ball striking but bounced back with a brilliant playoff performance to beat Catriona Matthew.

In those wayward moments, Park never looked the least bit shaken.

“I do believe she has a very good chance of pulling this off because of her demeanor and confidence,” Hall of Famer Pat Bradley said.

While trying to make history in the women’s game, Park is venturing into territory visited by very few players. Bradley is one of them.

Back in 1986, Bradley created a buzz over her run at the Grand Slam by winning the year’s first two majors. After winning the Kraft Nabisco Championship and the LPGA Championship, Bradley headed to NCR Country Club in Dayton, Ohio, with everybody in the women’s game talking about her attempt.

Bradley confessed she felt abnormally nervous when she stepped to the first tee in the first round.

“I was nervous every day leading up to that first round,” Bradley said. “All the talk was about the Grand Slam, with this huge buzz building. I didn’t handle that aspect of it very well. With all the hype and hoopla, I got off to a rough start.”

Bradley shot 76 in the first round and still made a run at winning. She tied for fifth, finishing three shots out of the playoff that Jane Geddes won.

After going on to win the year’s final major to take three of the four majors, Bradley was left to wonder what might have been.

“There’s an old saying that you can’t win a tournament on Thursday, but you can lose it,” Bradley said. “I did lose it on Thursday.”

Bradley loves Park’s cool demeanor. Bradley was a fiery competitor, a different personality than Park.

“Her composure is so at ease, she puts you at ease watching her,” Bradley said. “When I was doing my deal, I would have people on the edge of their seats with their hearts in their stomachs. When I watched Inbee at the U.S. Women’s Open, I sat back and I was so at ease. She’s a joy to watch. She’s so in control of herself.”

Annika Sorenstam knows what Grand Slam pressure is, too. She won the first two majors of the ’05 season to build a buzz over her bid as she went to the U.S. Women’s Open at Cherry Hills. Sorenstam never got into her usual rhythm and said she began trying to force things. She tied for 23rd.

“I was hearing all the Grand Slam talk, and I thought it was possible, having won each of the majors before,” Sorenstam said. “But I came to Denver, and I didn’t play well. I think I was just exhausted from the buildup, the expectations and the fact that it had already been a long season. I was patient at first, and then I just pushed and pushed, and it wasn’t enough.”

Sorenstam won 10 times in ’05.

Nancy Lopez felt the pressure to make history as a rookie in her winning streak that year. In ’78, she set an LPGA record by winning five tournaments in a row. As she went for her sixth consecutive victory, the interest in her was intense.

“No matter what anyone says, it’s hard to handle that pressure,” Lopez said. “I went to bed nervous, I woke up nervous. So, I felt the nerves, but I think they were good for me.”

Lopez said focus becomes a challenge as a streak builds.

“You have to stay in the moment, not think too far ahead, but it’s hard when you’re being asked about it all the time, when you’re having to talk about it so much,” Lopez said.

Lopez also believes Park’s personality suits her to this week’s challenge.

“I think it will help her get through the chaos,” Lopez said.

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Ko part of 5-way tie for Mediheal lead

By Associated PressApril 27, 2018, 3:20 am

DALY CITY, Calif. - Lydia Ko was back on top at Lake Merced.

Ko shot a 4-under 68 on a chilly Thursday morning at the LPGA Mediheal Championship for a share of the first-round lead. Jessica Korda, Caroline Hedwall, In-Kyung Kim and Su Oh joined Ko atop the leaderboard in the LPGA's return to Lake Merced after a year away.

''This is a golf course where you need to drive the ball well and putt well,'' said Ko, the Swinging Skirts LPGA Classic winner at the course in 2014 and 2015.

Ko eagled the par-5 fifth and had four birdies and a bogey. The New Zealander has 14 LPGA wins, the last in July 2016.

''It's nice to come back to a place where you feel super-welcomed,'' Ko said. ''It just brings back a lot of great memories. ... My family and friends are here this week, so I'm hoping that I'm going to continue the solid play.''

She turned 21 on Tuesday.

''I don't think I feel a huge difference, but I know turning 21 is a huge thing in the U.S.,'' Ko said, ''So, I'm legal and I can do some fun things now.''

Korda, playing alongside Kim a group ahead of Ko, also eagled the fifth and had four birdies and a bogey. Korda won in Thailand in February in her return from reconstructive jaw surgery.

Full-field scores from the LPGA Mediheal Championship

''The score says one thing and my hands say another,'' Korda said. ''It was really cold out there today, so it was good that I stuck to kind of my process. ... Actually, this is still some of the nicer conditions that we've played in compared to the past. I'll take the cold as long as there's no rain.''

Hedwall and Kim each had five birdies and a bogey.

''I just love the city. It's really nice,'' said Hedwall, from Sweden. ''It's sort of a European-style city with all the shopping going on downtown and stuff. I love it here. I even like this weather, suits me really well, too.''

Oh had a bogey-free round. The Australian was the only one of the five players tied for the lead to play in the afternoon.

''It was cold and pretty windy out there and, because it's got a lot of elevation, it kind of swirls in the middle like in the low areas, so it was tough,'' Oh said. ''I hit the ball really solid today. Then the ones I missed, I made really good up-and-downs.''

Lexi Thompson, Sei Young Kim, Charley Hull and Celine Herbin shot 69.

''This course is very challenging, especially when the wind picks up,'' the third-ranked Thompson said. ''It's chilly, so it's a little longer of a course. Some of the par 5s are reachable, so you try to take advantage of that, but pars were good and just take the birdie chances as you can get them.''

Moriya Jutanugarn, the winner Sunday in Los Angeles for her first LPGA title, had a 71 playing with former Stanford student Michelle Wie and ANA Inspiration winner Pernilla Lindberg. Wie had a 74, and Lindberg shot 79. Ariya Jutanugarn matched her sister with a 71, playing in the group with Ko.

Top-ranked Inbee Park matched playing partner Brooke Henderson with a 72. The third member of the afternoon group, second-ranked Shanshan Feng, shot 73.

Juli Inkster shot 72. The 57-year-old Hall of Famer grew up in Santz Cruz, starred at San Jose State and lives in Los Altos. She won the last of her 31 LPGA titles in 2006.

Stacy Lewis had a 74 after announcing that she is pregnant with a due date of Nov. 3. She plans to play through the Marathon Classic in July and return for a full season next year.

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Glover, Reavie share Zurich lead with Chinese pair

By Associated PressApril 27, 2018, 3:04 am

AVONDALE, La. - Chez Reavie had quite a few good moments at TPC Louisiana on Thursday. So did teammate Lucas Glover.

In best-ball format, the most important thing was those moments came on different holes.

Reavie and Glover teamed to shoot a 12-under 60 for a share of the Zurich Classic lead with China's Zhang Xinjun and Dou Zecheng.

''Chez started well and I picked it up in the middle of the back nine,'' Glover said. ''He closed it off and then we both played really well on the front. Just kind of ham and egged it, I guess, as they would say.''

Reavie and Glover each had six birdies in the best-ball format, pushing through soggy weather early in the round before conditions cleared at TPC Louisiana. Six teams are two shots back in a tie for third after shooting 62.

''We were just rolling,'' Reavie said. ''I think we're comfortable. We like to laugh and have a good time when we're playing golf, and it definitely helps.''

Zhang and Dou birdied four of their final five holes. Dou made a 31-foot putt on No. 9 to cap the impressive rally and jump into the lead with Reavie and Glover.

Full-field scores from the Zurich Classic of New Orleans

Zurich Classic of New Orleans: Articles, photos and videos

Tony Finau-Daniel Summerhays, Chris Paisley-Tommy Fleetwood, J.J. Henry-Tom Hoge, Michael Kim-Andrew Putnam, Kevin Kisner-Scott Brown and Troy Merritt-Brendon de Jonge shot 62. Jason Day and Ryan Ruffels shot 64.

It's the first time since last year's Tour Championship that the reigning champs of all four majors have been in the same field. None of them were among the leaders after the first round.

Masters champion Patrick Reed and Patrick Cantlay had a 65, and British Open winner Jordan Spieth and Ryan Palmer were at 66.

''I didn't feel like there was really any rust,'' Reed said. ''I felt like I hit the ball all right today. I felt I hit some good quality putts. A couple of them went in, a couple of them didn't.''

This is the second year that two-player teams have competed at the Zurich Classic. The unusual tournament features best-ball play in the first and third rounds and alternate shot in the second and final rounds.

U.S. Open champion Brooks Koepka and Marc Turnesa shot a 67. PGA Championship winner Justin Thomas and Bud Cauley shot a 70.

There are 80 teams in the tournament and the top 35, along with ties, will make the cut after Friday's second round.

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Lewis says she's expecting first child in November

By Randall MellApril 27, 2018, 2:18 am

Stacy Lewis is pregnant.

The 12-time LPGA winner confirmed after Thursday’s first round of the Mediheal Championship that she and her husband, University of Houston women’s golf coach Gerrod Chadwell, are expecting their first child on Nov. 3.

Lewis learned she was pregnant after returning home to Houston in late February following her withdrawal from the HSBC Women’s World Championship with a strained oblique muscle.

“We're obviously really excited,” Lewis said. “It wasn't nice I was hurt, but it was nice that I was home when I found out with [Gerrod]. We're just really excited to start a family.”

Lewis is the third big-name LPGA player preparing this year to become a mother for the first time. Suzann Pettersen announced last month that she’s pregnant, due in the fall. Gerina Piller is due any day.

Full-field scores from the LPGA Mediheal Championship

Piller’s husband, PGA Tour pro Martin Piller, withdrew from the Zurich Classic on Thursday to be with her. Piller and Lewis have been U.S. Solheim Cup partners the last two times the event has been played.

“It's going to be fun raising kids together,” Lewis said. “Hopefully, they're best friends and they hang out. But just excited about the next few months and what it's going to bring.”

Lewis, a former Rolex world No. 1 and two-time major championship winner, plans to play through the middle of July, with the Marathon Classic her last event of the year. She will be looking to return for the start of the 2019 season. The LPGA’s maternity leave policy allows her to come back next year with her status intact.

“This year, the golf might not be great, but I've got better things coming in my life than a golf score.” Lewis said. “I plan on coming back and traveling on the road with the baby, and we'll figure it out as we go.”

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Coach scores in NFL Draft and on golf course

By Grill Room TeamApril 27, 2018, 1:47 am

To say that Chicago Bears defensive coordinator Vic Fangio had a good day Thursday would be an understatement. Not only did his team snag one of the top defensive players in the NFL Draft - Georgia outside linebacker Roquan Smith, who the Bears took with the eighth pick of the first round - but earlier in the day Fangio, 59, made a hole-in-one, sinking a 9-iron shot from 125 yards at The Club at Strawberry Creek in Kenosha, Wis.

Perhaps the ace isn't so surprising, though. In late May 2017, Fangio made another hole-in-one, according to a tweet from the Bears. The only information supplied on that one was the distance - 116 yards.