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Aug 04

What Makes Park Tick?

British Open Winner Park Shows Long-term Greatness

Despite the sensational play of Lydia Ko on several occasions in the past year and beyond, Inbee Park is the top player in the world of women’s golf, and she spent the past week at Turnberry in Scotland to remind us of the fact. Winning the Open isn’t an isolated event that makes Park such hot news. It is that she is hot news almost all of the time. She’s obviously got it, but what is it exactly that she’s got – apparently more than anyone else, or at least more often?

inbee There is a fair-sized group of top players who can win any week when their game decides to click into the “on” position. They are the top talents, potentially dangerous at any time. When Ko ignites, she seems impossible to stop. And yet, it is Inbee Park who has won seven majors by the age of 27, has a career grand slam in the technical sense, and who has compiled an unthinkable percentage of wins in the big ones alone – 43 percent over the last fourteen.

Just think of it – 43 percent. If Park had become a baseball player and hit .430 over the space of several years, she would be the Babe Ruth of the women’s game. Basketball? Hitting three pointers at a 43% clip? Not bad at all. Major contracts would be offered. Her six of fourteen majors, however, did not come in a one-to-one showdown with a pitcher or a lone defender outside of the key. It came against the entire world field in a game so capricious that no one is ever a sure thing. Park has, in fact, has come the closest to a sure thing since the prime of Tiger Woods. Having one all of the other majors except for the Evian (which she won before it became a major), she came into the Open with soreness and back spasms, and won anyway. Is perseverance her secret? Lexi Thompson and Suzann Pettersen have demonstrated that as well. Why aren’t they winning 43% of their majors?

Is it the swing? There are a lot of great ones on the tour. Is Park’s the most successful physical formula, or is she simply the greatest of her era at repeating it once she’s found what she wants? That’s a hard answer to pin down. Perhaps it’s her excellent nerves. Despite so much major success, she didn’t come into the Open with great expectations, and after winning, declared only that the “golfing God was on my side.” Apparently, she can’t explain it, either – but then, she doesn’t have to. That’s the beauty of winning.

Is it love that keeps Park going the way she does? Lots of tour players either fall in or are already in love. Sometimes it’s a good thing, and sometimes it squashes a career flat. There’s no way to tell. I hope Park is happy, but I’m not sure that translates directly into the ultimate repeatable swing. Is her success a result of a cultural regimen from her home country? Maybe, but even South Korea can’t match Park’s talent across the board, although she decries the Olympic requirement of only four per country. She knows that half of the top fifty would come from Korea if things were different.
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Talent is technically categorized as a type of intelligence. If that is true, Inbee Park is one of the era’ geniuses. Mixed with a balanced perspective on herself, with a swing tuned to the nth degree, a good set of nerves and a healthy outlook on things in general, it is most likely a mixture of factors that have released her talent in such a prodigious way. She’s not number one by accident, and there are a lot more majors to come, and she is rapidly approaching Annika’s mark of ten. Maybe when Park finds out what makes her tick, she’ll tell us.
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About the author

G.F. Skipworth

has spent every available moment playing golf or studying the greats since the 60s, in between world tours as a classical musician, Harvard studies in Government or as the author of a dozen novels. Nicklaus and Snead may be the statistical greats, but Skipworth is a life-long devotee of Gary Player, and considers meeting the South African at the Jeld-Wen to be an unforgettable milestone. His driving passion in golf these days is to raise viewer interest in the LPGA.