Even though she has now won seven majors in total, Inbee Park’s Women’s British Open victory at Turnberry last week was her sixth major title in her last 14 major starts. The win also meant she completed the Grand Slam of women’s golf. These are incredible statistics and ones that put the South Korean among the world’s greatest golfers of all time. Only Tiger Woods and Mary Kathryn (Mickey) Wright had won seven majors by the same age; 27 years.
After putting up with fierce winds and lashing rain, as well as the sunshine that accompanies Scotland’s “four seasons in one day” golfing experience, one wonders what winning on a genuine links layout means to the South Korean.
“It feels great to finally hold the British Open trophy. I gave it a few cracks and it’s just been so hard. This is the birthplace of golf. Scotland is where golf started and this feels like real golf. This is definitely the golfer’s most wanted trophy. I set only one goal this year, one and only, and that’s winning the British Open. Achieving it feels great. This is the greatest day of my life, for sure.”
Asked about playing in such harsh conditions, she responded, “When the rain was pouring down, when the wind was blowing, when my 5-iron only went 100 yards, I just felt so bad. I wanted to give in, but you can’t give in. I said to myself: I can’t really push to achieve the career Grand Slam. I was really close and couldn’t wrap it up. I had to get myself out of Grand Slam thinking, and playing without expectations really helped this week.”
Park, starting the final round three off the lead, reeled off seven birdies and an eagle to equal the course record. She was four behind fellow South Korean, Jin Young Ko, with 12 holes remaining. It was here that Park applied the pressure on her young countrywoman, by birdieing the next four holes followed by an eagle at 14. The 20 year-old rookie, playing in her first major, three-putted the 13th and double bogied the 16th, opening the way for Park to win by three shots.
Park finished on 12-under par, three shots clear of Jin Young Ko at 9-under. In third equal, one shot back at 8-under, were Lydia Ko and So Yeon Ryu. Interestingly, three of the top four finishers are from South Korea. The only one who isn’t is Lydia Ko, the 18 year-old world number 2 who hails from New Zealand. But she didn’t arrive in her adopted country until she was four years old. One guess as to where she was born?
Much has been written about why women with South Korean origins dominate the LPGA. And why, given such dominance in the women’s game, don’t South Korean Men feature more on their professional circuit? One huge reason: Compulsory Military Training.
While Inbee Park was winning on Scotland’s West Coast, another Asian, Thailand’s Kiradech Aphibarnrat, was showing his growing credentials by winning on Scotland’s East Coast. The Murcar Links at Aberdeen played host to Paul Lawrie’s European Tour sanctioned match-play event.
Asia’s answer to John Daly, in more ways than one, beat Swede and former European number one, Robert Karlsson, one-up in a closely contested final by birdieing the last.
With this win, Aphibarnrat becomes: the first Thai player to win a European Tour event in Scotland and only the second player from Thailand to win a European Tour event on British soil, following Thongchai Jaidee at the 2012 ISPS Handa Wales Open.
He continues with his stunning 2015 European Tour season. This victory is his fifth top five finish from 17 events to date. In addition to winning the Shenzhen International and the Saltire Energy Paul Lawrie Match Play, he tied fourth in the True Thailand Classic at Black Mountain, tied fourth in the BMW International Open and fifth in the Nedbank Golf Challenge. Aphibarnrat, with five, now moves alongside Bernd Wiesberger and David Howell for the most top five finishes on this season’s European Tour.
Next up; the PGA Championship starting 13 August.