Inbee Park begins her latest bid for a Major when she tees up tomorrow (Thursday) in the Ricoh Women’s British Open at the Trump Turnberry Resort in Ayrshire.
The 27 year-old Korean World No. 1 claimed her sixth Major title last month with a third straight victory in the KPMG PGA Championship but to date she has finished no better than second in the Ricoh Women’s British Open and has admitted she is determined to rectify that omission as soon as she can.
Park’s biggest British disappointment to date came back in 2013 when she arrived at St Andrews having won the ANA Inspiration, The KPMG Women’s PGA and the US Women’s Open earlier that year only to see her hopes of a fourth straight Major blown away when she found herself at the wrong end of the draw and out in the worst of the Scottish weather.
“It would mean a lot to me to win where golf started,” Park said. “This is what I do for a living and this is what I love to do. To be able to win a Championship on the soil of the birthplace of golf would be very special.
“I’ve never put my name of the British Open trophy,” she added. “That’s really my main goal.”
Park’s preparations were hampered when she had to pull of Tuesday’s pro-am with a niggling back injury but she does not believe it will hamper what is her eighth tilt at the title.
“It just happened,” she said. After my long flight I felt a bit of a back spasm. It was hard to bend down yesterday so I didn’t want to irritate it but I’ve done a bit of work with my physio and it feels a lot better today.
“There’s still a bit of pain but I can deal with that.”
“My first couple of years here at the British Open were a bit of a shock because I’d never played golf like that before,” she added “But after my third or fourth year I learned how to do it and have had quite a few good finishes since then.”
The World No. 1 will start as the favourite but if she does not win there are plenty of her countrywomen to take her place. To date this year Korean players have won 13 out of the 19 events on the LPGA Tour and four out of the top five on the current Rolex Women’s World Rankings are Korean-born.
Many of these Korean players are well-known across the world but it is not just the seasoned veterans who are winning but also a new wave who have emerged since the turn of the year. Rookies like Hyo Joo Kim and Sei Young Kim have both won on this year’s LPGA Tour but the biggest splash of them all was made by In-Gee Chun who created worldwide headlines when she won the recent US Women’s Open.
The smart money will be on one of the 20-strong Korean contingent joining compatriots Jiyai Shin and Jeong Jang as winner of the Championship but another player who will have high hopes of landing another Major is 2014 ANA Inspiration champion Lexi Thompson who arrived at Turnberry fresh from victory in last week’s Meijer LPGA Classic.
“Coming off a win gives me a lot of confidence going into this week and that’s important especially in a Major,” she said. “This is my fourth British Open. I’m still trying to get used to it because it’s a lot different to Florida golf but I like it. There’s a lot more thought process going into every shot. You can hit different shots. It’s pretty cool to watch. I’m still trying to get used to it but I feel I’ve gotten better each year.”
One player who will need no introduction to how difficult the conditions can become is English teenager Charley Hull whose introduction to Turnberry came eight years ago at the age of 11 when she won the finals of a national ladies’ competition on the course despite being blown over twice by the wind.
“It was the Heath Perception Championship of Great Britain or something like that,” she said. “It was quite a big thing and I won it so that was good.
“All I remember was that it was a very windy day and I got blown over twice. It was raining when we finished and all I wanted to do was play on my Nintendo DS. But I had to go out and play in a play-off. Fortunately I won on the second extra hole so I was able to run in and play on my Nintendo again.”
Eight years later Hull admitted she will be focussed much more on her golf and not just because she has the chance to win a £289,534 first prize rather than just a trophy.
“I’m just going to play one shot at a time,” she said. “I feel my game is in good shape and hopefully I’ll put a few good scores together. I played well last year in this event. I had a great third round and shot 66 so hopefully I’ll do more of that next year.
Hull begins her quest for a first Major title at 11.48 tomorrow (Thursday) in the company of Japan’s Haru Nomura and Cristie Kerr from America. Park begins in the game behind at 11.59 together with America’s Stacy Lewis and Spain’s Azahara Munoz while Thompson is one of the early starters in the 7.14 group with England’s Mel Reid and Sakura Yokomine from Japan.
One the first two days play commences at 6.30 with the last group on the course going out some nine hours later at 15.28. After the first two rounds there is a cut with the leading 65 players and those tied for 65th place progressing to the last two rounds on Saturday and Sunday.