Inbee Park will be tough to catch
SOUTHAMPTON, N.Y. -- Jodi Ewart Shadoff went shark diving on her honeymoon in January. She said the chilly temperature of the water was more unnerving than any of the sharks she saw.
But, of course, she was safe in a cage then. On Sunday, she and anybody else who has hope of winning the U.S. Women's Open will have to stare down the LPGA's equivalent of a shark: world No. 1 Inbee Park.
Good luck with that. The way Park is playing these days, her game is lethal to others' chances. Going for her third major championship this season, Park leads at 10-under 206.
Only three other women have won three golf majors in the same year, so this is a historical feat Park is chasing.
"I might not get too much sleep," she said Saturday. "But I'm going to try to sleep and be fresh. What else can you ask for? Whether I win or not, I'm just going to try to enjoy [Sunday]."
Park's South Korean countrywoman I.K. Kim ended the third round in second place, four strokes back at 210. Ewart Shadoff is in third at 213. So Yeon Ryu, the 2011 Women's Open champion, and American Angela Stanford, the 2003 runner-up, are tied for fourth at 215.
Those five are the only players under par for the tournament. Speaking of sharks, the Sebonack Golf Club bared its teeth Saturday. It bit some players hard, including American Lizette Salas, who had a nightmarish 82 and fell out of contention. Waiting after Salas' round with a hug and some consoling advice was her mentor, Hall of Famer Nancy Lopez.
Just one player finished her round under par Saturday. Bet you can guess who that was.
"I probably putted the best out of all three days," said Park, who shot a 1-under 71 despite consecutive bogeys on Nos. 11, 12 and 13. "It was tough out there with the wind. It was probably the strongest that we've played all week, and the pin positions were just really tough. So I mean, it was a very grinding day."
Some people's grinding, though, is a lot more elegant than others'. Park opened the door a crack with those three bogeys, but nobody was able to stick a foot in.
Park, who shows very little, if any, emotion on the course, admitted she was irritated with herself. The bogeys on 11 and 12 she said she could forgive herself for. But the one on 13 was just sloppy, in her opinion.
So she responded with birdie putts on Nos. 14 and 15 to right the ship, not as if it was really listing or anything. The first putt was a classic "Inbee-makes-the-difficult-look-easy," a 30-footer down a ridge. The next she estimated at about 16 feet.
Then after pars on 16 and 17, she finished with a 10-footer for birdie on 18.
"You always have to expect that she's going to hole every putt," Ewart Shadoff said. "Because most of the time, she does."
Ewart Shadoff, a 25-year-old playing in her first Women's Open, would love to follow English countryman Justin Rose in winning a United States championship. Rose won the U.S. Open two weeks ago with a steady-as-you-go game plan, taking advantage of others faltering.
Even though she did have a rough final round at the LPGA Championship earlier this month (before winning in a playoff), Park is not the type to back up. However, if she does just a little, can anyone make a major push?
Asked whether she plans on being aggressive, Ewart Shadoff said, "Yeah, absolutely. There is nothing to lose for me."
What about Kim? She's the player everyone is rooting for to win a major at some point because of the excruciatingly painful one that got away when she missed a 1-foot putt at the 2012 Kraft Nabisco Championship.
Kim shot a 1-over 73 on Saturday but had her chances at a better score. She acknowledges it's difficult to envision Park tossing up a big number Sunday. But, hey, Kim is not giving up.
"I think we all have a chance," Kim said. "She is playing great. But you never know; I might have a great day tomorrow. That's why you play four rounds."
Park is confident, but intelligently wary, too.
"I'm just going to think that I.K. and I are tied starting [Sunday's] play because anything can happen out here," Park said. "I mean, four shots, it could be nothing around this golf course."
That might be true ... if Park were somehow chasing herself. But this is one shark that is going to be really hard to catch.