Park's gold-medal performance captivates a nation

By Randall MellAugust 21, 2016, 9:10 pm

Inbee Park’s climb atop the medal podium at the Olympic Golf Course in Rio Saturday took her soaring to rarefied air, to a stratosphere only Se Ri Pak knows in a Korean nation that reveres women’s golf.

With a gold medal around her neck, with a victory rivaling Pak’s historic triumph at the U.S. Women’s Open 18 years ago, Park towered transcendentally.

Igniting nationalistic passions in ways Pak first did winning at Blackwolf Run, Park solidified her place in Korean sporting lore.

“Queenbee makes history at the Olympics” screamed a headline Sunday in the Korean Times.

Pak will always be remembered for inspiring a nation to become a golf power, but Park may have finally moved out of Pak’s shadow as the most accomplished Korean player. Park turned Pak’s legacy into gold, the first gold medal in the history of women’s golf. Yes, the first, because when Margaret Abbott shot 47 to win first place in a nine-hole Olympic competition in Paris in 1900, she didn’t take home gold. Abbott took home a porcelain bowl.

Park, 28, is the only Korean to win an LPGA Player of the Year Award and the only two-time Korean winner of the Vare Trophy for low scoring average. Park and Jiyai Shin are the only Koreans to hold the Rolex world No. 1 ranking. Park has won seven major championships to Pak’s five, and now Park has Olympic gold on her resume.

Just like Pak did all those years ago, Park kept a nation bursting with pride awake into the wee morning hours. When Park took the medal stand, it was 2:08 in the morning back in Seoul and yet legions of viewers were tuned in watching.

The moment was televised live by three different Korean networks.

KBS, MBC and SBS television were all broadcasting.

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Nielsen Korea reported the networks combined for an overnight claim to 23.9 percent of Korean viewership, according to the Yonhap News Agency. That’s about 10 times the ratings an average LPGA event gets there, and LPGA golf is a popular sports staple. It dwarfed the ratings of every men’s major championship played this year.

Sean Pyun, the LPGA’s Korean-American managing director of international business affairs, told that Park’s victory is believed to be the most watched women’s golf event ever in South Korea.

“The only telecast that may be comparable would be Se Ri’s U.S. Women’s Open victory in '98,” Pyun said.

How popular is women’s golf in South Korea? When the Koreans met the Americans in a wild-card playoff at the International Crown two years ago, it was the most watched golf event in the country that year. The ratings were more than double what the Masters got in South Korea.

Na Yeon Choi, winner of the 2012 U.S. Women’s Open, said she got emotional doing TV commentary for MBC when Park claimed the gold medal.

“I almost cried on air,” Choi told in a telephone interview Sunday. “I’m sure Inbee had so much pressure on her, because back in Korea, they really expect athletes to win medals. I saw Inbee and the Korean players in practice on Monday and Tuesday, and they were smiling, but you could sense all the pressure on their shoulders.

“I was texting with Inbee during the week, and she sent a text saying she felt sorry for some of our athletes who didn’t win medals. She felt badly seeing some of them crying and apologizing for not winning medals.”

Battling injuries all year, with Korean fans back in her homeland wondering if she should have given up her Olympic spot, Park may have felt more pressure than any Korean athlete. In the end, it made her victory all the more satisfying.

“Inbee is the star of this Olympics for Korea,” Pyun said.

South Korean president Park Geun-hye sent a special message to Inbee on Sunday morning congratulating her, according to the Yonhap News Agency.

Park didn’t just win gold in the Olympics. She won pulling away, in a dominant effort reminiscent of Katie Ledecky and Michael Phelps in swimming, of Usain Bolt in track and field. Park won by five shots.

“Winning the gold medal, I think Inbee has done everything you can do now in women’s golf,” So Yeon Ryu, the 2011 U.S. Women’s Open winner, told “I always thought Inbee was an incredible woman, and now I know just how incredible she is.”

The LPGA credits Park with a career Grand Slam, having won the ANA Inspiration once, the Ricoh Women’s British Open once, the U.S. Women’s Open twice and the KPMG Women’s PGA (formerly the LPGA Championship) three times. She also won the Evian Championship, before it was designated a major.

How does she rank a gold medal against all her majors?

“I think definitely at the top,” Park said. “This is something I’ve never done before. This definitely feels very, very special. Being able to receive the gold medal was an unforgettable moment.”

In what has been a frustrating year plagued by a back injury and a left thumb injury, Park has made it memorable nonetheless. Struggling with nagging inflammation in both a tendon and ligament in her thumb in June, she played through the pain to officially qualify for the LPGA Hall of Fame at the Women’s PGA Championship. She left Sahalee, however, with more doubt than ever following her after missing the cut there and announcing she would take an extended leave to heal. She withdrew from the U.S. Women’s Open and the Women’s British Open, where she was the defending champion.

Two weeks before the Olympics, in her first start in two months, Park missed the cut at a Korean LPGA Tour event. She was going to Rio having missed the cut or withdrawn in her last four starts. The struggles set off a debate back in her homeland over whether she should give up her Olympic spot.

“Inbee has accomplished so much, nobody’s ever really had bad things to say about her,” Ryu said. “But all of a sudden, people were saying bad things, that she should give up her spot to give another Korean a chance. It was hard for her to handle that.”

Ryu was roomates with Park at the Kingsmill Championship in May, when Park shot 74 in the opening round and then withdrew.

“Inbee was starting to worry back then if she could play with the injury and if she was going to have to pull out of some events,” Ryu said. “The Olympics were a big deal to Inbee, but I could see she was really struggling with the decisions she was going to have to make.

“Inbee is very strong mentally, and she really handled things well.”

Nobody knew how Park would respond in Rio, but she impressed her Korean teammates.

“I am sure she was under more pressure than anyone else,” said In Gee Chun, who tied for 13th. “It’s incredible what she was able to accomplish under the circumstances.”

Choi said she expects Park’s victory will have the same kind of ripple effect in South Korea that Pak’s monumental victory did.

“I think it will have the same impact,” Choi said. “We were all called Se Ri’s kids, and I think Inbee will have that kind of influence on juniors who watched her win the gold medal. I think they are going to have that Olympic dream, too.”

Pak ignited the spark that led to South Korea’s emergence as a force in women’s golf, and now Park has fanned the flames in a way they have never been fanned before.

“There were people in Korea watching Inbee on TV who didn’t know anything about golf, but they were watching because it was the Olympics and she was going for gold,” Choi said. “We knew that from comments we were seeing during the telecast. We were having to explain what a par was and other golf terms.”

In that sense, Park didn’t just win a gold medal. She helped grow the game in a nation where it’s already flourishing.

“This certainly and finally cements Inbee’s status in Korean women’s golf as a legend alongside Se Ri,” Pyun said. “I also think Olympic women’s golf had a great showing as it relates to continuing development of the game in Asia.”

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Storms halt Barbasol before Lincicome tees off

By Associated PressJuly 20, 2018, 11:29 pm

NICHOLASVILLE, Ky. - Brittany Lincicome will have to wait until the weekend to resume her bid to make the cut in a PGA Tour event.

Overnight storms delayed the start of the second round Friday in the Barbasol Championship, and an afternoon thunderstorm suspended competition for good. The round will resume Saturday morning with much of the field still to play.

The second stoppage at Champions Trace at Keene Trace Golf Club came 20 minutes before Lincicome's scheduled tee time.

Lincicome was near the bottom of the field after opening with a 6-over 78 on Thursday. The first LPGA player since Michelle Wie in 2008 to start a PGA Tour event, she needs a huge rebound to join Babe Zaharias (1945) as the only female players to make the cut.

Troy Merritt had the clubhouse lead at 15 under, following an opening 62 with a 67.

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Third-round tee times for the 147th Open

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 20, 2018, 9:05 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Eighteen major champions made the cut at The Open and will be playing the weekend at Carnoustie, including 60-year-old ageless wonder Bernhard Langer, and both major champs so far this year, Patrick Reed and Brooks Koepka.

Twenty-four-year-old Gavin Green will be first off solo Saturday at 4:15 a.m. ET. Reed and Rhys Enoch will follow along 10 minutes later.

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods, both at even par for the tournament, six shots behind leaders Zach Johnson and Kevin Kisner, are in consecutive groups. Mickelson is playing with Austin Cook at 8:05 a.m. and Woods is with South Africa’s Shaun Norris at 8:15 a.m.

Jordan Spieth and Rickie Fowler, both three shots off the lead, are also in consecutive groups. Fowler is at 10 a.m. with Thorbjorn Olesen and Spieth is 10 minutes later with Kevin Chappell. Rory McIlroy, looking to win his first major since the 2014 PGA Championship, is at 10:40 a.m. with Xander Schauffele. McIlroy is two shots behind.

Johnson and Kisner are last off at 11 a.m.

4:15AM ET: Gavin Green

4:25AM ET: Rhys Enoch, Patrick Reed

4:35AM ET: Kiradech Aphibarnrat, Justin Rose

4:45AM ET: Yusaku Miyazato, Tyrrell Hatton

4:55AM ET: Ross Fisher, Keegan Bradley

5:05AM ET: Ryan Fox, Jason Dufner

5:15AM ET: Bryson DeChambeau, Henrik Stenson

5:25AM ET: Tom Lewis, Sam Locke (a)

5:35AM ET: Paul Casey, Chris Wood

5:45AM ET: Bernhard Langer, Rafa Cabrera Bello

6:00AM ET: Paul Dunne, Brett Rumford

6:10AM ET: Masahiro Kawamura, Shubhankar Sharma

6:20AM ET: Cameron Smith, Brendan Steele

6:30AM ET: Marc Leishman, Lee Westwood

6:40AM ET: Byeong Hun An, Kevin Na

6:50AM ET: Julian Suri, Adam Hadwin

7:00AM ET: Gary Woodland, Si-Woo Kim

7:10AM ET: Yuta Ikeda, Satoshi Kodaira

7:20AM ET: Marcus Kinhult, Thomas Pieters

7:30AM ET: Beau Hossler, Haotong Li

7:45AM ET: Cameron Davis, Sean Crocker

7:55AM ET: Louis Oosthuizen, Stewart Cink

8:05AM ET: Phil Mickeslon, Austin Cook

8:15AM ET: Tiger Woods, Shaun Norris

8:25AM ET: Lucas Herbert, Michael Kim

8:35AM ET: Jason Day, Francesco Molinari

8:45AM ET: Sung Kang, Webb Simpson

8:55AM ET: Patrick Cantlay, Eddie Pepperell

9:05AM ET: Matthew Southgate, Brooks Koepka

9:15AM ET: Kyle Stanley, Adam Scott

9:30AM ET: Charley Hoffman, Alex Noren

9:40AM ET: Ryan Moore, Brandon Stone

9:50AM ET: Luke List, Danny Willett

10:00AM ET: Thorbjorn Olesen, Rickie Fowler

10:10AM ET: Jordan Spieth, Kevin Chappell

10:20AM ET: Zander Lombard, Tony Finau

10:30AM ET: Matt Kuchar, Erik Van Rooyen

10:40AM ET: Rory McIlroy, Xander Schauffele

10:50AM ET: Pat Perez, Tommy Fleetwood

11:00AM ET: Kevin Kisner, Zach Johnson

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Facial hair Fowler's new good-luck charm

By Rex HoggardJuly 20, 2018, 8:12 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Before, during and after the Fourth of July, Rickie Fowler missed a few appointments with his razor.

He arrived in the United Kingdom for last week’s Scottish Open still unshaved and he tied for sixth place. Fowler, like most golfers, can give in to superstition, so he's decided to keep the caveman look going for this week’s Open Championship.

“There could be some variations,” he smiled following his round on Friday at Carnoustie.

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

At this rate, he may never shave again. Fowler followed an opening 70 with a 69 on Friday to move into a tie for 11th place, just three strokes off the lead.

Fowler also has some friendly competition in the beard department, with his roommate this week Justin Thomas also going for the rugged look.

“I think he kind of followed my lead in a way. I think he ended up at home, and he had a little bit of scruff going. It's just fun,” Fowler said. “We mess around with it. Obviously, not taking it too seriously. But like I said, ended up playing halfway decent last week, so I couldn't really shave it off going into this week.”

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Spieth (67) rebounds from tough Round 1 finish

By Ryan LavnerJuly 20, 2018, 7:55 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Guess whose putter is starting to heat up again at a major?

Even with a few wayward shots Friday at Carnoustie, Jordan Spieth made a significant climb up the leaderboard in the second round, firing a 4-under 67 to move just three shots off the lead.

Spieth showed his trademark grit in bouncing back from a rough finish Thursday, when he mis-clubbed on the 15th hole, leading to a double bogey, and ended up playing the last four holes in 4 over.

“I don’t know if I actually regrouped,” he said. “It more kind of fires me up a little.”

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

Spieth missed more than half of his fairways in the second round, but he was able to play his approach shots from the proper side of the hole. Sure, he “stole a few,” particularly with unlikely birdies on Nos. 10 and 11 after errant drives, but he took advantage and put himself in position to defend his claret jug.

Spieth needed only 25 putts in the second round, and he credited a post-round adjustment Thursday for the improvement. The tweak allows his arms to do more of the work in his stroke, and he said he felt more confident on the greens.

“It’s come a long way in the last few months, no doubt,” he said.

More than anything, Spieth was relieved not to have to play “cut-line golf” on Friday, like he’s done each start since his spirited run at the Masters.

“I know that my swing isn’t exactly where I want it to be; it’s nowhere near where it was at Birkdale,” he said. “But the short game is on point, and the swing is working in the right direction to get the confidence back.”