ST. ANDREWS, Scotland (AP) — Inbee Park’s bid for a Grand Slam ended long before she walked up to the 18th green at St. Andrews, giving her plenty of time to find perspective.
“I’ve done something amazing this season,” she said. “I won three straight majors. I don’t know if I can do that again.”
Winning four straight professional majors in one season remains out of reach. Park had a better chance than anyone, though it ended early Sunday at the Women’s British Open when she went the wrong direction to finish her third round nine shots behind, and then four-putted for double bogey on the first hole of the final round.
The slam was gone. So was her energy.
“When you’re so far behind, it’s hard to get the motivation,” she said. “I tried to push myself to play as good as I can.”
Park closed with rounds of 74-78, more than a dozen shots out of the lead. She felt more relief than sadness when it was over. The Grand Slam — even the debate whether it had to be four majors or all five on the LPGA Tour schedule this year — had consumed the 25-year-old South Korean since she won the U.S. Women’s Open in June for her third straight major of the year.
“I’m glad this tournament is over,” said Park, who finished at 6-over 294. “I’ve gone through four rounds under pressure, and that’s something I’ve never experienced.”
The prospect of the first pro golfer winning four straight majors in the same year seemed even more possible when Park opened this championship with six birdies in 10 holes to take the lead. If she looks back at where it all went wrong, it would start with a poor tee shot on the 12th hole Thursday.
Park began to struggle with her swing, which caused her to lose concentration on the massive, double greens of the Old Course. She had to settle for a 69, the only time she broke par all week. She was eight shots behind going into the weekend and never made up ground.
Known for having one of the purest putting strokes in women’s golf — even the great Mickey Wright called Park one of the best putters she had ever seen — it was putting that caused her the most problems. And it didn’t help that greens were extra slow Sunday morning. Officials chose not to cut them out of concern of high wind that suspended the third round Saturday. Instead, they raised the blades on the mowers so they would only clean the dew from the ground.
“These greens were tough to judge,” Park said. “One minute they were quick, one minute they were slow.”
But it was far from a bad experience.
Her most memorable part of an otherwise drab week was feeling support for her quest in the weeks leading up to the Women’s British Open, and from the gallery following her along at the home of golf.
“I’ve never had this many people rooting for me, wanting me to play good,” she said.
Since the modern version of the Grand Slam began in 1960 — Bobby Jones won two professional and two amateur majors in 1930 — Park was the only player to win the first three majors of a season. The only other pro to do that was Babe Zaharias in 1950, when the LPGA Tour had only three majors.
Ben Hogan won three majors in 1953, though the British Open at Carnoustie was held one week after the PGA Championship. Hogan couldn’t play the PGA Championship, physically because of his battered legs and logistically because Open qualifying was the same week as the PGA.
Tiger Woods won the final three majors of 2000 after tying for fifth in the Masters.
Woods, Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus and Annika Sorenstam each got halfway to the Grand Slam and couldn’t get the third leg.
“Unless I win four majors, this is something I’ll always remember,” Park said.
Woods and Wright are the only players to win four straight professional majors, both doing it over parts of two seasons. Park still has a chance to become the first pro to win four majors in a year. The LPGA’s fifth major is the Evian Championship in September. Park is the defending champion, though she doesn’t expect to face nearly as much public scrutiny when she gets to France.
She said she felt “exhausted” and was on her way home to rest in South Korea.
But she found one more aspect about this week at St. Andrews that made her smile.
“I get to do an interview after shooting 6-over,” she said. “Everything at this tournament is new to me.”