US Open keeps Inbee Park Grand Slam bid on course

Inbee Park: Won by four shots. Picture: AP
Inbee Park: Won by four shots. Picture: AP
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South Korean Park Inbee became only the second LPGA player to win the first three majors in a season when she roared to a four-stroke victory at the US Women’s Open last night

The world No 1 held steady with a final-round two-over-par 74 to finish at eight-under 280 at Sebonack Golf Club in New York.

Only Mildred (Babe) Didrikson Zaharias has previously won the first three womens majors in a season. She did it in 1950, winning the Titleholders Championship, the Women’s Western Open and the US Women’s Open.

Fellow South Korean LK Kim matched Park’s 74 and took second at four-under 284 but was never able to really challenge her compatriot.

Ryu So-Yeon was third at one-under 287 with Americans Paula Creamer and Angela Stanford and England’s Jodi Ewart-Shadoff tied for fourth at one-over 289.

The 24-year-old followed up her Kraft Nabisco Championship win by beating Catriona Matthew in a play-off for the LPGA Championship at the beginning of June. She’d set up the chance of arriving at St Andrews for the Women’s British Open at the end of this month on the cusp of becoming one of the sport’s legends after firing a one-under 71 in the third round of the season’s third major. Park was the only player in the field to post a sub-par third round in high winds on Saturday at the course in Southampton, New York, to move to ten-under 206, four shots clear of compatriot I K Kim (73). It meant she headed into the final round with one hand on another major title and Park started out showing little signs of pressure.

Five straight pars maintained her cushion before back-to-back dropped shots at the sixth and seventh. She then picked up a first birdie of the day at the ninth. Out in 36 and nine-under for the tournament, Park was five in front of Kim, who picked up an early birdie at the second only to then drop three shots in quick succession.

Heading into the final round, England’s Jodi Ewart-Shadoff appeared the only other legitimate challenger at three-under. However, perhaps feeling the nerves, she had four bogeys in her first five holes before getting two of those shots back at the eighth and ninth.

Korea’s Ryu So-Yeon (73) and American Angela Stanford (74) were the only other players under par after 54 holes, nine off the pace at one-under in a tie for fourth. Tied for 12th heading into the final round, North Berwick’s Matthew was three-over for the day and six-over for the tournament with four holes to play. “The wind was a bit stronger than Friday, so the conditions were tough,” said Park after Saturday’s round. “The pin positions were tough, a lot of long irons hitting into the greens. But I think I battled it really good out there. I had my tough times in the middle but ended up finishing very good, so I’m happy with that.”

Park is just the fourth woman to win three majors in a calendar year, joining Zaharias, Mickey Wright (1961) and Pat Bradley (1986). Only Ben Hogan (1953) has won the first three majors of the year in the professional era of men’s golf, and prior to that only Bobby Jones has won what is considered the grand slam. Jones won the US and British Amateurs and US and British Opens in 1930.

While Zaharias won every major on offer in 1950, from 1955-1966 and 1983-2012 the LPGA held four majors though this year a fifth was added.

For a clean sweep, the current world No 1 will also need to win the Women’s British Open at St Andrews followed by the Evian Championship in September.