Inbee Park’s march to history got off to a solid start in Thursday’s first round of the RICOH Women’s British Open. Park opened with a 3-under 69 on the Old Course at St. Andrews, but it was a round that she described as “a rollercoaster” with seven birdies, two bogeys and one double bogey.
Despite some late struggles in her round, Park still sits just two shots behind early clubhouse leader, Stacy Lewis, as she seeks to become the first golfer – male or female – to win four professional majors in a single season.
“I played very good on the front nine and then I had a little bit shaky on the back nine,” Park said after her round. “But I still feel really good about the game. I was 6‑under through ten holes and that means I could do the same thing tomorrow.
“There was a couple of bad drives and a couple of bad putts on the back nine, but it's the first round, and could have been much better. A little bit disappointing, but I'm glad that I've done that in the first round instead of the final round.”
Park’s hunt for the Grand Slam has drawn worldwide attention and in spite of the increased attention focused on her this week at St. Andrews, the 25-year-old South Korean didn’t seem to be fazed by the pressure at the start Thursday’s first round.
After teeing off at 7:03 a.m. local time in cloudy conditions with a light drizzle, Park wasted no time getting her name on the leaderboard. She birdied the first hole and then managed to take advantage of the easier part of the golf course as she shot 31 on the front nine. Known for her solid putting, Park put on a clinic with her flat stick over the first 10 holes of her round. She sank birdie putts that measured close to 40, 30, 20 and 10 feet during that stretch and once again showed why she’s considered to be one of the best putters currently in the game.
Park moved to 6-under-par when she made a 5-foot birdie putt on the 10th, but gave the stroke back with a bogey on the par-4 13th. After driving the ball into the heather, Park had to slash out with her second shot and then hit her third to about 15 feet. She missed that putt for par and had to settle for bogey as she headed to the final stretch of holes.
Things proved to be more difficult for Park at the end of her round, as her driver wasn’t quite as steady. She missed a few fairways coming down the stretch, most of them to the right-hand side, and then three-putted on No. 16 and 17 as she went double bogey and bogey to drop to 2-under-par. A birdie on the final hole got Inbee back to 3-under-par for the day and sitting in good position heading into Friday’s second round.
While the normally stoic Park didn’t show any outward signs of feeling the pressure leading up to Thursday’s first round, she acknowledged afterward that she’s glad the first part of her journey this week has been completed.
“I was a little bit nervous this morning before I teed off,” Park said. “But then once the round started, and especially playing so good in the first few holes, that really gave me a lot of confidence. I didn't feel much pressure when I was playing during the round. I'm just glad that it is already started and I got the first round under my belt.”