Inbee Park ready, rarin' to go
ST. ANDREWS, Scotland -- Ah, the perks of fame. Inbee Park recently got gifts of a gold putter and use of a Ferrari for a year back home in South Korea. However, a woman at the toll booth still charged her -- but did seem delighted to see the world's No. 1-ranked female golfer.
Here at the Old Course on Tuesday afternoon, Park talked with the media about her recent trip to Seoul, her memories of playing at St. Andrews in 2007 and her mindset coming into this week's Women's British Open.
"It's cool to be recognized," Park said of her higher profile in South Korea now. "I was very surprised when I got to the airport; there were so many people there."
Park is attempting to become the first player, male or female, to win four pro golf majors in a calendar year.
What she's already done in 2013 -- taking over the top ranking and winning the Kraft Nabisco Championship, the LPGA Championship and the U.S. Women's Open -- was cause for celebration in her native country when she returned there last week.
"I was tired physically, but I was a lot more happy mentally," Park said. "Being able to see friends and family and to communicate with my fans, it gives me a lot of energy this week."
Park, of course, is the center of attention at this major championship, where she finished second last year at Royal Liverpool in England. This is the second time the Women's British Open has been played at St. Andrews; Park tied for 11th here in 2007.
This course dates to the 1550s, and several parts of it are little changed. But there are a few things different from 2007.
"I noticed No. 17 became a par 4; we played it as a par 5 when we were here [before]," Park said. "And they are saying No. 17 bunker is a little bit shallower. I don't remember being in that bunker, or know exactly how high it was. You don't want to be in that bunker."
Park's game this year has been so good, she hasn't spent much time on any course in spots nobody wants to be in. This course is markedly different from Long Island's Sebonack, where Park won the U.S. Women's Open on June 30, and Sebonack is very different than Locust Hill, where Park won the LPGA Championship on June 9. The things she did well at both of those courses, though, should help her at the Women's British.
"At Locust Hill, fairways are the most important thing," Park said of the Rochester, N.Y., course. "Sebonack is a second-shot course; you need to place your second shot in the right positions. And the greens were tough.
"Winning at Locust Hill gave me a lot of confidence, because ball-striking/hitting it straight is the weakest part of my game."
That's a relative term, considering no part of her game is shaky now. Park finished tied for 14th and tied for 33rd at the two LPGA events after the U.S. Women's Open, but that might be attributed to the fact that even someone as focused as Park can have breaks in concentration.
Nobody is expecting that to be the case this week, though, where the loaded field has 19 other players who have won major titles. Park would love to have the same kind of tournament now that Lorena Ochoa had here the first week of August 2007, when she won by four shots.
Ochoa, who retired while still in her 20s, had taken over as the top-ranked player in April 2007. She didn't carry the weight of having won three previous majors into the tournament, though; the Women's British was her only major title of that year.
"I remember that was my first year on tour, and she was just unbeatable," Park said. "I couldn't really even look up to her, because she was that good."
Indeed, Park was just a 19-year-old then, hoping she could make a living playing golf. It would have seemed fantastical at that time for her to think that one day she could be in the same realm as a player such as Ochoa. But six years later, Park is No. 1.
"The wind is a factor here; I'm kind of a low-ball-flight hitter," Park said. "This golf course really suits my eye and my game. St. Andrews has big greens with some big ridges.
"You're going to hit a lot of greens here and have putts that are 30, 20 yards long. You have to be a good pace putter. It's to my advantage that I get to use my putter a lot on this golf course."