Inbee Park: Best in the world at what she does

Posted: June 16, 2015 1:24 am

If Inbee Park was standing in a line of strangers at, say, Starbucks and you were asked to pick the professional athlete out of the group, she wouldn’t be your number-one choice.

She wouldn’t be anyone’s number-one choice.

She’s 5-6, faintly pear-shaped, managing to seem physically both slight and pudgy. Her public manner is entirely professional and pleasant, but entirely devoid of charisma or dynamism. She exudes the completely admirable, if unsexy, quality of not thinking that much of herself.

She has a Twitter account but has tweeted exactly four times in 2015. This is the photo:


Her golf swing is neither elegant nor technically pristine; halfway through the backswing the club is way “above the plane,” and practically perpendicular to the ground. In a power-golf era, she’s 84th on the LPGA tour in driving distance.

Rory McIlroy she ain’t.

The best female golfer alive she emphatically is, and not by a small margin. Her win in the Women’s PGA championship that ended Sunday at Westchester Country Club was her sixth major championship. That’s as many as Lee Trevino and Kathy Whitworth and Nick Faldo and more than McIlroy, Phil Mickelson, Byron Nelson, and Nancy Lopez.

Since the beginning of the 2013 season, the women have played 12 majors, and Park has won five of them. Her other major was the 2008 Women’s Open, at age 19. She’s still on the only teenager to win the USWO.

At Westchester, Park shot 19 under par, tied for the best score in relation to par in maj0r-championship history. She played the last 56 holes of the tournament without a bogey. She has now won the Women’s PGA (until this year known as the LPGA Championship) three straight times on three different courses. Since Walter Hagen was winning the men’s PGA pretty much annually in the Roaring 20s, winning the same major three years in a row has been done only twice a woman and not at all by a man.

Park was first in the Rolex world ranking for 59 weeks in 2013-14. After hovering around it the past few months, she’s now back atop the OWGR and all the other big stuff: the Race To The CME Globe point standings, LPGA Tour money and scoring average lists.

Park used to be known as a brilliant putter but so-so ballstriker. She’s hitting 76 percent of greens in regulation this year, fifth-best on tour. Her game matches her pleasant but stoic temperment, all about metronome-like consistency.

“There’s nothing like it,” Lexi Thompson told Golfweek Sunday after shooting 66 at Westchester and finishing third. “She has an amazing short game on top of it. It’s tough to beat, but we’re all out here trying to chase her down.”

Park gets this week off and will play only once between now the U.S. Women’s Open at Lancaster Country Club, which will conclude on her 27th birthday.

You already know the player to beat.