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Sports & Fitness // Hot Air
Steve Murray

Park’s Quest Goes Beyond Golf

Inbee Park celebrates her third consecutive LPGA major victory at the U.S. Women’s Open | AP photo

Inbee Park is the world’s most-dominant golfer. She isn’t the best golfer – that may still be Tiger Woods – but she is the best when compared to her competition. That’s what matters.

Park is different from her dominating predecessors Annika Sorenstam and Yani Tseng. Park doesn’t overpower the course or the competition. She dominates through sheer consistency.

The 25-year-old South Korean hits fairways, leaves approach shots in scoreable positions and simply knocks in nearly every putt she needs. It’s not a game plan that results in video game covers, but it’s an effective way to compile championships. In that sense, she is much like her taller, male NBA counterpart Tim Duncan.

The Spurs power forward has built a Hall of Fame career by forgoing the dramatic in favor of the fundamental. So has the still-young Park. To paraphrase her own sport’s measure of excellence – 18-time major winner Jack Nicholas – she just plays her game knowing opponents will falter under the pressure.

Easy to say, hard to do.

Such strategy requires the obvious physical gifts – which she has – plus the mental strength to overcome the pressure of having an entire nation following your every step. A week ago at the Manulife Financial LPGA Classic, Park made it clear pressure is the other players’ problem.

While talking about her opening round 65 that left her two behind the day one leaders, Park spoke about preparing herself for the inevitable bad round.

“I don’t expect myself to play great every day. It’s really tough to do in golf,” she told Golf Channel. “I’m just ready to take the bad weeks. I’m not waiting for bad weeks, but I am prepared for a bad week. I’m just ready for everything.”

While most golfers hide in a blanket of self-survival, spinning any discussion of bad play into something positive, Park embraces bad play as just another element to prepare for and withstand.

Last month Park became the first woman since Babe Zaharias to win three consecutive golf majors. At that time the LPGA had only three majors, making Zaharias the only woman to win a single season grand slam.

With a win at the Ricoh Women’s British Open Park will join Bobby Jones as the only person to win four majors in a calendar year. Since The Evian Championship became a major this year, Park could go five-for-five.

Doing so may be easier than getting anyone outside of The Golf Channel to recognize the feat.

LPGA commissioner Michael Wan has done a wonderful job cleaning up the mess left by former tour head Carolyn Bivens. But his skills will be tested trying to make sports fans care about a female athlete who lacks the body type necessary for wide-ranging network coverage. He’ll fail through no fault of his own.

Regardless of overall interest, Inbee Park is on the verge of doing something nearly unimaginable – setting a mark worthy of never-to-be-broken status. Park’s five majors would equal Joe Dimaggio’s 56-game hitting streak, Wayne Gretzky’s scoring record and Wilt Chamberlin’s 100 point night.

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