Inbee Park was battered in the wind at Dundonald Links last week in the Scottish Open before feeling as though she had almost experienced four seasons in the space of a few hours yesterday morning at Kingsbarns in the pro-am for the Ricoh Women’s British Open. No matter what else Mother Nature could be set to throw at her this week, though, the former world No 1 will draw on her experiences of having to play in much worse conditions in Korea as a junior to take it all in her stride.
“When I was on the national team, we trained for a couple months in Jeju Island in the wintertime, which is like minus ten degrees Celsius,” revealed Park, the 2015 winner, as her pre-event press conference turned to the weather after a heavy downpour left Catriona Matthew posting a picture of a flooded green on Twitter then shortly afterwards another one of the Fife course bathed in sunshine. “Wearing three or four layers, we’ve played in the snow and we’ve played in cold, windy conditions, so I guess that kind of trains us pretty well.”
The 29-year-old chuckled when she was asked if staying in front of a nice warm fire had been an option instead of having to brave such conditions as a youngster. “I think we didn’t really have a choice because there were like 30-40 girls and boys training at the same time as we were on the same schedule and I couldn’t say, ‘I’m going back in as this is too cold’,” she replied. According to Park, newly-crowned Scottish Open champion Mi Hyang Lee took part in that toughening up process at the same time, while So Yeon Ryu, the current world No 1, also benefited from that as she came through the junior ranks. “I think a lot of the girls out here have gone through that camp, definitely, at least one time,” she added.
Conditions were tough at Turnberry two years ago when Park claimed this title by three shots and, heading into the first major to be staged at Kingsbarns with an attitude of being “prepared to be frustrated” if more typical Scottish summer weather is in the offing, she certainly can’t be discounted despite having struggled with her game when finishing joint 44th behind Lee at Dundonald on Sunday.
“Getting four seasons in the one day is the kind of weather that we are expecting coming to Scotland,” said the seven-time major winner, who was forced to miss last year’s event at Woburn due to a thumb injury before coming out in her next tournament to win Olympic gold in Rio. “I think you just have to be prepared for getting get the sunny conditions for the first nine and then the wind, rain and cold weather, on the back nine. You’ve just got to be open to anything happening out here and never give up because you just don’t know what’s going to happen. I love playing links golf, even though sometimes it fools me.”
Park, who used last week’s visit to Ayrshire to make a trip back to Turnberry to relive a “special memory”, was on course for a calendar Grand Slam, having won the ANA Inspiration, Women’s PGA Championship and the US Women’s Open, when she arrived in St Andrews for this event four years ago. Unfortunately, she never really got in the mix on that occasion as Stacy Lewis claimed the title, but Park certainly doesn’t feel haunted in any way by being back on the Fife coast. “I experienced so many things in 2013 and playing at St Andrews in the British Open I was able to test myself under pressure and learn how to handle pressure. I think that’s kind of made me who I am today,” she said.
In an event that features all the players inside the world’s top 20, Ariya Jutanugarn is hoping she can shake off a cold and also overcome a shoulder injury to put up a stout title defence. “I’m sick and my shoulder still hurts, but it’s getting better,” said the 21-year-old, who ended Lydia Ko’s 85-week run as world No 1 after winning the Manulife LPGA Classic in June.
Jutanugarn, whose older sister, Moriya, is also in the field, isn’t planning to use a driver at all this week, having seen that decision pay off at Woburn 12 months ago, and is hoping she’ll get to smile more as part of her pre-shot routine than she did in the Scottish Open. “I do it because I just really want to stay positive, but it was pretty tough last week when it’s as windy as that and I didn’t have much patience,” she said. “The last few tournaments, in fact, have not really been good, but I’m still learning every day and I know what I have to keep working on.”