There are two sure signs to look for when a golfer is succumbing to the pressure of a big occasion.
The swing gets shorter and faster. And putts start coming up short of the hole. By such measures, the play of Inbee Park in the final round of the 2015 Women’s British Open was nothing short of spectacular.
In claiming her seventh major title – she has won six of the past 14 – the 27-year-old South Korean’s metronomic method never altered in pace or tempo and the putts kept going in. Over the last 12 holes the world No1 made five birdies and an eagle en route to shooting a seven-under par 65 and a 12-under total of 276. Enough said.
In the end, the winning margin was a comfortable looking three shots from another South Korean, Ko Jin-young. But it was closer than it appeared. Early bogeys on the 4th and 5th put the soon-to-be champion three shots behind Ko. It was not until Park made a three at the par-five 14th that her name moved to the top of the leaderboard. And not until Ko found the burn in front of the 16th green with her approach and made double-bogey was the lead – and the completion of the career grand slam – secure. She won the Evian Championship before it was awarded major status, but the LPGA said last night they acknowledge it as the career slam. “This is the greatest day of my life, for sure,” said Park. “I played great golf out there. This has been the goal of my career and I’ve achieved it at the age of 27. It always seemed so far away and so hard. I never thought I could achieve the grand slam but now I’ve finally done it.
“I knew when I made the eagle on 14 I had a chance. But only a chance. I still thought the winning score would be 13 under. I’m glad it wasn’t.” Just to underline the direction in which the ladies game has long been heading, another South Korean, Ryu So-yeon, and one of Korean extraction, the New Zealander Lydia Ko, tied for third.
By way of contrast, only three Americans made the top 20 – a hardly encouraging statistic for the US captain, Juli Inkster, with a Solheim Cup looming next month. Europe’s captain, Carin Koch, will surely be much happier. Koch’s best player, Suzann Pettersen of Norway, was the best European in fifth place, with Sweden’s Anna Nordquist not far behind, tied for seventh. Then there was the hugely encouraging play of two young British players, Amy Boulden and Mel Reid, who confirmed their potential and return to form respectively by tieing for ninth spot.
Indeed, that two-pronged British challenge huffed and puffed without ever sparking alight. Which is not to say Boulden and Reid did not perform well in the miserable conditions that prevailed most of the day. But both made just enough mistakes to prevent significant progress up a leaderboard crowded with the game’s very best players. “I so enjoyed that,” said Boulden. “It was a great experience for me to play with Lexi Thompson yesterday and So Yeon today. I’ve had a great view of what I’m up against.”
Reid was similarly encouraged. Good enough to finish in the top 20 at this event as an amateur in 2007 and a Solheim Cup player by 2011, the 27-year-old’s career stalled in the wake of her mother’s death in a car crash a year later. But she has shown much better form in 2015. Even three straight bogeys in succession from the 11th were not enough to upset her equilibrium.“That was awesome,” she said. “I’ve played with Inbee, Lydia and Lexi over the last few days.
“They are all in the world’s top 10 so it’s been nice to see where my game is at compared to them. And now I know it’s not too far away. I missed a couple of chips and hit one really bad eight iron, but apart from that I just didn’t get any putts going in.
“I burned a few edges on the greens. It must have been six or seven.”
Ah yes, putting: just one of the differences between a multiple major winner and the rest.
guardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010