(June 27, 2013)-The best player in women’s golf will tee off at 7:40am Thursday morning as the Women’s U.S. Open gets underway in Southampton, N.Y. Yet chances are most people wouldn’t recognize her if she was standing next you in line at the grocery store. Welcome to the world of Inbee Park, current holder of the past two major championships and also ranked number one in the world on the LPGA.
Park has lit the tour on fire this season winning five times so far this year including the Kraft Nabisco Championship and the Wegmans LPGA Championship. Now as she looks to win her second U.S. Open title and third major of the season, Park is playing at a level that few in women’s golf are familiar with.
Park won her first major in 2008 at the U.S. Open but then didn’t win again until 2012 when she won twice on tour. Along with those two victories Park also had six runner-up finishes and captured the Vare trophy which is the award given for the lowest scoring average.
But 2013 has certainly been the breakout year for Park. Quiet and unassuming the South Korean native blends into the background amongst dozens of Korean players who have swept through the LPGA tour the past several years. This year however the player with perhaps the best putting stroke on any tour is winning tournaments at such a rapid pace that it is forcing the golf world to take notice.
Park has been ranked number one in the world for eleven weeks since she took over the spot held briefly by Stacy Lewis, currently ranked one spot behind her. What began as a close competition between the two players has changed over the last month as Park has steadily increased the gap between the two. She won the last two events leading up to the U.S. Open and leads the money list by almost $700,000. It would also be hard to imagine that anyone could steal the Player of the Year award from her at this point.
The 24 year-old has the opportunity to capture the RICOH Women’s British Open later this summer which up until this year would have given her the career Grand Slam. 2013 however is the inaugural year for the Evian Championship to be listed as the “fifth major” on the LPGA. An event Park ironically won last summer before it was bumped up to a major title. Although the thought of one person running the table this summer and claiming the last three majors seems unlikely, Park is proving to be an unlikely champion.
If Park does add another major title to her resume this weekend it would put her in some elite company. Three major championships in one year has only been accomplished once in women’s golf history when Babe Zaharias did it in 1950. And hopefully a few more people will start to recognize Park and give her the much-earned respect that she deserves.