Can Inbee Park 'slam' mystery status?
ST. ANDREWS, Scotland -- So I'm standing in the shadows of the stately Royal and Ancient Clubhouse, the first tee box of the Old Course only a flop shot away, and in my hand is a photograph of the woman who is on the brink of golf history.
Inbee Park has won the first three majors of the year and is expected to win this week's Ricoh Women's British Open at the Old Course. That would be four majors in a row, which is a Grand Slam in my 2013 scorebook.
"It's pretty spectacular," says Pat Bradley, one of only four LPGA players to have won three majors in a single year, by phone from her summer home in Hyannisport. "I'm sorry to say, the world of sports probably doesn't get it."
I'm sorry to say, she's right.
The first and last player to win four majors in a calendar year is Bobby Jones -- and that was in 1930. The first and last player to win four professional majors in a calendar year is nobody. So, yeah, this Inbee Park thing is a big deal. Plus, she could win No. 4 at the long-recognized home of golf, where everyone knows Park when they see her, right?
"Is it Nancy Lopez?" says a veteran Old Course caddie as I show him the photo of Park.
Uh, that would be a big negatory. Lopez won three majors in her entire career; Park has that many in the past three-plus months. But never mind that. The woman in the photo is clearly of Asian descent; Lopez is of Hispanic descent.
"Haven't a clue," says the caddie, still staring at the photo. "No, no, women's golf is not very big here."
Wait? What? The auld grey toon is all about golf. I approach a middle-aged man standing just behind the 18th green.
"Wouldn't know her," says Jim McVeagh, a golfer from Dunblane, just 60 miles west of St. Andrews. "No idea."
"She's won three consecutive majors," I say. I even move my thumb, so he can read the photo caption, which, if you look hard enough, features her name.
Crickets chirping. In Scottish.
"Abysmal that we don't know that," he says. "We tend to follow the locals."
It's 2 o'clock. A bagpiper plays at the nearby Martyrs' Monument. Seagulls fly lazily over a couple as they eat sandwiches on a gentle grass hill near the clubhouse. A woman, wearing an Old Course golf shirt and visor, sits on a bench near the 18th green.
"Uh, that's that woman ..." she says, before giving up. "My husband would know."
On to the world famous Auchterlonies golf shop, which is just around the corner from the Old Course. In the window of the shop is a small poster for the Women's British Open.
Store general manager Bobby Millar, born and raised in St. Andrews, nods at the photo of Park. Of course, he recognizes her, but said he doesn't expect many in the home of golf to know Park.
"It's a shame," he says.
Three doors down is the store's ladies golf shop. There are huge, life-size posters of Paula Creamer, Michelle Wie and Suzann Pettersen on the shop walls ... but no Park.
"If Inbee Park were walking down the street, would anyone recognize her?" I ask the woman behind the counter.
"Probably not in Scotland," she says.
I walk a few blocks to the Ladbrokes betting parlor. Kevin the teller says there hasn't been much of a wagering buzz about the upcoming Open ... or about Park.
"But she's better than any of the men," he says.
People, wake up! Inbee, 25, is the Tiger Woods of women's golf. Check that -- she's done what Woods never did: win the first three majors of a season.
If Woods were having the year Park is, Bradley says, "It would be total chaos in the world of golf. It would be unbelievable."
It is unbelievable. Park won Major No. 1 of 2013, the Kraft Nabisco Championship, by 4 strokes. She won Major No. 2, the LPGA Championship, in a sudden-death playoff. She won Major No. 3, the U.S. Open, by 4 shots.
"If she was going to stumble, I thought it would be the U.S. Open," says Bradley, whose own Grand Slam dreams ended at the U.S. Open in 1986. "Honestly, I think the hard part is over."
The South Korean, who moved to the States about a dozen years ago, already has six victories this season. If she wins at St. Andrews, she'll be caught in the middle of an odd debate: What exactly is a Grand Slam?
In men's pro golf, it's the four majors. But on the women's tour, a fifth major, the Evian Championship, was added this year. That's like making the World Series best of nine. Dumb.
Park isn't complaining. Nothing bothers her. She has the only pulse rate in negative integers.
She also has lots of fans, although St. Andrews isn't one of her recognition strongholds. Hyannisport is, though. That's where Bradley will be watching the tournament on TV.
"I don't see anything stopping her," Bradley says.