Posted: July 10, 2015 3:07 am
Was strolling around Lancaster Country Club Wednesday with a swing coach I’ve gotten to know a little, a guy who works with players on both the PGA and LPGA Tours.
His student on this day happened to be playing a practice round with Inbee Park. Park had recently hit several ugly, low, weak spinless shots that would have been surprisingly bad for a six handicap, and, astonishing for the best woman golfer on Earth.
“That’s gonna be your winner, right there,” swing coach said, meaning Park, and meaning U.S. Open champion.
He has no problem at all with Park’s swing, featuring a slow, straight upright backswing and then a re-route on the way down.
“It isn’t a swing you’d teach,” he said. “But she owns it. She’s completely worry-free. She’s not thinking about it going right or left, and she doesn’t care if it does. Fearless.”
Park must be the least likely great athlete in any current sport. She’s calm to the point of appearing placid. Her reaction to those funky low liners she was hitting Wednesday?
Look stoically at her caddie, wait for another golf ball, and try it again.
“I think when I try to play well, I just kind of know that I have to be that way, a little bit more calm, not express too much of my emotions,” she said in a press conference at Lancaster Country Club Tuesday.
“I think that’s how I learned to play. I didn’t try to do that, but that just came naturally to play well.”
Not much was decided here Thursday. Not much usually is on major championship Thursdays Especially when the first round isn’t even complete, as it wasn’t here, as of press time, due to a violent thunderstorm that touched down on the property around 6 p.m.
But you know the cliche: You can’t win golf tournaments on Thursday, but you can lose them.
Familiar names like Suzann Pettersen (79), Jessica Korda (78), and Christie Kerr (six over through 15 probably did.
Park, two under through 14, did not.
She was not Hogan-esque, hitting just eight of 14 greens, and six of 11 fairways. She also didn’t get the break of playing early, which was a real one. and an important part of the round-one story.
After seven-plus inches of rain had soaked the golf course over the last five weeks, and after watching player after player hitting 3-woods and hybrids into par-4s during three days of practice rounds, the U.S.G.A. gave us a short, receptive Lancaster Country Club Thursday morning, and people pounced.
The scorecard yardage for Thursday’s set-up was 6,353, and even that was deceptive, since some of the holes where the tees were back – the par-5 13th and par-4 16th, for example – involve layups.
The par-4 18th, potentially bearish, played to just 415, or, according to notes the U.S.G.A. released, “22 paces forward of where the tee sign has been during the practice rounds.”
Morgan Pressel, longer than she used to be but no Laura Davies, played the longer, and supposedly tougher, back nine in 32. Co-leaders Marina Alex and Karie Webb, who shot 66, missed a combined one fairway and two greens in regulation.
Pressel, Alex, Webb, Amy Yang (67) and almost all the leaders played early.
Again, Park did not. She right there. A win here would be her seventh major. This is her third stint as world No. 1.
“I don’t feel that much pressure anymore,” she said. “I feel like No. 1 or 2, what’s the difference?”
Really? You could argue that different is what sports is about.
She wouldn’t argue back. Can’t imagine her arguing, ever, about anything.
“I don’t need to show anybody anything,” she said. “I just try to play my own golf, not do something for other people. The more you get to experience this spot, the more that I experience it, you’re just another golfer.”