Inbee Park enters this week’s U.S. Women’s Open with a rare chance to win a third consecutive LPGA tournament and a third major championship of the season. Her start to the season falls among the greatest in LPGA history. Consider the following:
- Park has won two tournaments in a row, the Wegmans LPGA Championship and the Walmart NW Arkansas Championship. Only one player, Mickey Wright in 1964, won two tournaments prior to the U.S. Women’s Open and then the national championship. Wright captured the Lady Carling Eastern Open and the Waldemar Open before taking the U.S. Women’s Open at San Diego (Calif.) Country Club. Betsy Rawls (1952), Annika Sorenstam (2000) and Yani Tseng (2011) won the two tournaments prior to the U.S. Women’s Open but didn’t win that week. Carol Mann (1965), Amy Alcott (1980) and Eun-Hee Ji (2009) won the week before and then the U.S. Women’s Open. The LPGA record for most consecutive victories is five by Nancy Lopez and Annika Sorenstam.
- Park was 19 when she won the Women’s Open in 2008, becoming the youngest winner in tournament history at Interlachen in Edina, Minn., the site where Bobby Jones won the 1930 U.S. Open during his Grand Slam year. Park has five top-10s in the Open; only Cristie Kerr (seven) has more in this week’s field. Park has won every major except the Ricoh Women’s British Open.
- Only two players have won every major played during a calendar year – Babe Zaharias in 1950 (three) and Sandra Haynie in 1974 (two). No one has won the first three majors when there were four or more scheduled in a season. Pat Bradley won three majors in 1986, but failed to win the U.S. Women’s Open, the third major of that season.
- Park has eight career victories, tied with Mi Hyun Kim for third among South Koreans in LPGA wins. Se Ri Pak (25) and Jiyai Shin (11) lead the way.
- Park has won five of her 12 starts this season through 14 tournaments and has seven wins in her last 23 starts dating back to last year. Since last July in those 23 starts, Park has finished either first or second 12 times.
- In her five wins this season, Park has come from behind to win three times and has shot a final round in the 60s four times. Her last two victories both came in playoffs.
American women looking to break drought
There have been nine consecutive non-American major championship winners, dating back to Stacy Lewis at the 2011 Kraft Nabisco Championship, including four consecutive victors from South Korea.
The last nine majors have been won by Taiwan’s Yani Tseng (2011 Wegmans LPGA Championship), South Korea’s So Yeon Ryu (2011 U.S. Women’s Open), Tseng (2011 Ricoh Women’s British Open), South Korea’s Sun Young Yoo (2012 Kraft Nabisco), China’s Shanshan Feng (2012 Wegmans LPGA), South Korea’s Na Yeon Choi (2012 U.S. Women’s Open), South Korea’s Jiyai Shin (2012 Ricoh British) and South Korea’s Inbee Park (2013 Kraft Nabisco and Wegmans LPGA).
The previous American major victory drought lasted from Meg Mallon at the 2004 U.S. Women’s Open until Sherri Steinhauer at the 2006 Women’s British.
South Korean women have also won four of the last five U.S. Women’s Opens, with only Paula Creamer’s 2010 victory interrupting that trait. The winners have included Inbee Park (2008), Eun-Hee Ji (2009), So Yeon Ryu (2011) and defending champion Na Yeon Choi. In the last decade, 15 different South Koreans have won a major title.
The Open’s age game
There are 17 teenagers in the field this week, including 14 who earned spots in qualifiers. Nelly Korda, 14, of Bradenton, Fla., is the youngest competitor and is the younger sister to Jessica Korda, 19, the winner of the 2012 Women’s Australian Open. Brooke Henderson, 15, from Canada, shot 136, at River Vale, N.J., to tie Annie Park for the lowest qualifying score this year.
Three teenagers were already fully exempt: Ariya Jutanugarn, 17; Lydia Ko, 16; and Lexi Thompson, 18. Jutanugarn has been bothered by a sore left shoulder since withdrawing from the Wegmans LPGA Championship three weeks ago. The U.S. Women’s Open would be her first professional start in a major.
Lorie Kane is the oldest qualifier in the field this week at age 48. Juli Inkster is the oldest competitor this week – she turned 53 on Monday.
Famous company at Sebonack
This will be Sebonack Golf Club’s first major championship, but the course is not without famous ties. Shinnecock Hills and National Golf Links are both located next door to the course which was designed in 2006 by Jack Nicklaus and Tom Doak.
Sebonack will measure 6,821 yards and play to par 72 this week. The par-35 front nine is just under 500 yards shorter due to the fact that the second nine features three par 5s, including the 523-yard finishing hole that runs parallel to Peconic Bay and can be reached in two to create possible final-round drama. There are three par 5s in the final six holes.
Statistical leaders at the halfway mark
Last week’s Walmart NW Arkansas Championship was the 14th tournament of the season, marking the halfway point.
It comes as no surprise that No. 1-ranked Inbee Park leads in Earnings ($1,521,827), Scoring (69.64) and Rolex Player of Year points (221, 129 ahead of Stacy Lewis) and No. 2 Lewis leads in Rounds Played (38) and Top 10s. Suzann Pettersen leads in Greens in Regulation (75.4 percent), Jiyai Shin in Driving Accuracy (84.5 percent) and Moriya Jutanugarn (349) in Rookie of the Year points.
Two surprises lead the Putting and Driving Distance categories. Third-year player Danah Bordner is the top putter thus far (28.33 putts per round) and rookie Nicole Smith is the longest driver (274.8 average).
Next year, the U.S. Women’s Open will be played at Pinehurst No. 2 June 19-22, the week after the men play the same course. Other future sites include Lancaster, Pa., CC in 2015 and Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, N.J., in 2017. … Paula Creamer has never finished outside of the top 10 at a U.S. Women’s Open since she turned pro in 2004. Her worst finish was a T19 in 2004 and the best was a victory in 2010. … The U.S. Women’s Open uses a three-hole aggregate playoff instead of the 18-hole format that the men’s U.S. Open uses. … Ken Duke, the winner of last week’s Travelers Championship on the PGA Tour, is an Arkansas native who underwent surgery at age 15 to correct scoliosis (curvature of the spine). Stacy Lewis graduated from the University of Arkansas and underwent similar surgery as a high school senior.