14 Feb 2020 | Women's Australian Open | Feature stories |

CLAYTON: It’s Inbee’s to win or lose

by Mike Clayton

Inbee Park_image
Inbee Park putts during her second round 69 at Royal Adelaide. Photo: James Elsby

Most courses have a few holes, often less than a handful, where the real demand is for a proper shot. There is little room for error, most often because the target is small, the shot is long or the penalty for a miss is a likely bogey.

They are the shots players worry about and wind makes them even more onerous. Some, including the Road Hole at St Andrews, may even ask for two great shots. Three if you mess up the second. The tee shot off the 15th at New South Wales is always a nagging concern and if it’s into a decent wind, a player is lying if they suggest they haven’t thought of it several holes before they walk off the 14th green.

They might all preach ‘one shot at a time’ but don’t believe it.

The rest of the holes on the majority of courses can safely be ticked off with an adequate tee shot and a nice second into the middle of the green.

Royal Adelaide’s 11th is but one example.

Always classed as one of the best on the course, it is a beautiful looking hole with the green cut at the base of the huge, backing sand dune. It is, though, a relatively simple affair from tee to green requiring little strategic nous or any great nerve.

Rather a straight fairway wood or long iron followed by a short iron approach to a big, relatively flat green will get it done. Neither shot is scaring a good player.

There are four really demanding holes this week and watching Inbee Park these first 36-holes showed off why she is 10-under par at halfway and the player to beat.

Into the wind, the sixth is one of the two most difficult par fours on the course and Park followed up two perfect drives with fairway woods safely into the heart of the green. Fours were a given.

On the back nine, the three even-numbered holes from the 12th are at the heart of the difficulty of the course.

As she did in the opening round, Inbee hit a perfect five iron into the middle of the 12th green and then, once again, found the middle of the long par four, 14th green with a seven iron after a more than adequate tee shot.

The final test is the 16th and it’s tiny, upturned green where missing left in the deep bunkers usually isn’t any good at all.

Unsurprisingly both rounds saw her bounce a pair of six irons up from the front of the green and into the middle. It is one of those holes where they could leave the pin out of the hole and it wouldn’t make a scrap of difference to the shot you would play. As Peter Thomson often advised: “Play to the middle and putt to the corners.”

On Thursday, Park made a couple of errors – a three putt at the seventh and a drive into the bunkers at the 18th – but Friday was one where the tennis statisticians would have left the unforced error column unmarked.

It’s not difficult to see why she has won so many big championships and on the evidence so far it’s a stretch to see her doing anything to beat herself.

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