15 Feb 2020 | Women's Australian Open |
Inbee Park in control of #WomensAusOpen
by Martin Blake
Inbee Park sized up a 12-metre birdie put at the last hole at Royal Adelaide today and surely must have felt – with a two-shot lead already – that two putts and a par would do.
Get into the clubhouse, recover, and start again.
But no. Park is a supreme putter and a great frontrunner. She left the flag in, stroked it beautifully with the old putter she put back in her bag after a disappointing day on the greens in round one at Barwon Heads last week, and rammed it right in the hole.
The lead is three shots, and just as was the case 24 hours ago, the ISPS Handa Women’s Australian Open is hers to win or lose.
That putt gave her a 68 and served to emphasise the great South Korean’s domination of this tournament at 15-under par through three rounds, wonderful scoring on this quality of course.
But what’s ahead is bound to be challenging for her. She’ll have a reminder of what the mighty Seoul golfing factory is churning out year-after-year right beside her all day tomorrow, in the form of 19-year-old Ayean Cho, who carded a 69 and put herself in the final group for the second week in a row.
At the ISPS Handa Vic Open last week, Cho fell away in the wind on the final day and finished 16th.
But the teenager did not come out of the blue, not by a long shot. She won twice on the Korean LPGA Tour last year and is already No. 34 in the world. She’s going to be around for a long time.
She’s never played with the legendary Park before; what remains is to see how she handles it.
“I will not try to just win, but I will try to learn something from tomorrow,'' she said.
As for seven-time major-winner Park, she was matter-of-fact about the pairing. “Golf is an individual sport and you just play your game,’’ she said. “If somebody plays better than you, that’s too bad.”
Park started out today in a share of the lead with England’s Jodi Ewart Shadoff and quickly asserted herself with a birdie from close range at the second. Ewart Shadoff disintegrated with a four-over par 77 as the Korean kept pushing the boundaries. When she slipped up – as she did at the par-four third with a bogey, she quickly recovered, doing what she needed to do.
At the par-five 17th, she made the mandatory birdie then another at the 18th.
Her Australian caddie, Brad Beecher, has been imploring her in recent years to come back Down Under, but this is her first Australian Open since 2012. “I came here eight years ago,” she said. “My caddie always wanted me to play every year and I was like, ‘I just think it’s too early in the year’ and I never really played. He is really happy that I am playing these two, the Vic Open and Australian Open this year and hopefully a nice win will be a really, really nice present for him.’’
Cho is outright second at 12-under but American Marina Alex is right in the mix at 11-under. Frenchwomen Perrine Delacour and Celine Boutier are next at 10-under. They all have a chance but will be reliant on that most unlikely of occurrences, the Inbee Park fade-out.
Park is a seven-time major winner for a reason. If she holds on tomorrow, that will make 20 wins on the LPGA Tour.
The Australians could not hold their ground. Hannah Green has been the best of them at seven-under after a 72 today, but she is eight shots back. Minjee Lee (73 today) lost contact with the leaders finishing at three-under.
As for Inbee Park, she feels very much at home. “When I saw this golf course for the first time in the practice round, I fell in love with it,” she said. “ The golf course is in pristine condition and I just love the set up and I love the golf course right now. I’m just enjoying myself, being in Australia in a while and obviously having a little bit of a cushion is always a big help coming into the final round. Everybody is playing under a little bit of pressure, so hopefully that cushion really helps me.’’
Tomorrow’s first tee times are at 7.05am, with the leaders hitting at 1.15pm.
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