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

CLAYTON: The greatness of Inbee Park

by Mike Clayton

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

If major championships are the measure of achievement, Inbee Park was the player of the decade just past. The stoic Korean won seven and the Olympic gold medal while Rory McIlroy and Brooks Koepka accumulated four each.

It would be the surest bet anyone could make that if either man asked an equipment company for a new three wood to replace one they’d used for years, they wouldn’t be required to offer up their credit card.

Not so Inbee who, it was suggested, ought to pay for a replacement when she asked for one a few years ago. It’s hard to imagine point-missing on a bigger level and it shows off the attitude of some to women’s golf.

It’s a pity because as Park showed on the opening day at Royal Adelaide she is a skilful player but one you need to watch carefully to see why she has been so successful.

The swing is far from classic. The shaft is almost vertical halfway up the backswing and her head swivels toward the target as, or even before, she hits the ball. It’s not a method you would teach, but nor it is one a wise teacher would seek to alter.

It works and what more can you ask of a golf swing?

Park split the opening fairway just as most in the clubhouse were beginning their lunch, -which was a pity because they missed her holing an opening wedge from a 100 metres for an eagle.

She he followed up by holing from 25 feet for a birdie at the third and one not much shorter at the fifth  went down for another. A pitch close at the eighth regained a shot dropped at beautiful short seventh when she not unreasonably three-putted from all the way across the green. Half the field would have done the same.

Adelaide’s 12th and the 16th West at Royal Melbourne are probably the two most difficult to hit short hole greens in the country and at the 12th Park, showed off why she is such a great player.

She is not one to hit the spectacular shots, in the main because they are the preserve of the most powerful players, but when the shot down the hill and into the wind to the small, upturned green was there to be hit it was flighted perfectly into the front middle of the green.

Making the putt from 25 feet was just a bonus but she was never going to make more than par.  Her playing partner, Su Oh hooked and then hacked her way to a six and So Yeon Ryu three-putted from the back of the green for a bogey after a fine tee shot.

The difficult par four, 14th was safely passed in four and a nifty little chip and putt from the front of the 15th ensured Inbee’s fifth birdie. Another beautiful, safe iron found the tricky 16th green and an easy four at the split-fairway 17th was really more a par than the birdie the scorecard suggests.

The 17th is an interesting hole to observe. The drive left of the centre bunkers is more dangerous than the easy option down the right, but the approach is certainly easier from the left because it frees the player from playing across the greenside bunkers to a green sitting at the wrong angle.

Park is easily accurate enough with her driver (unsurprisingly manufactured by a different company than the one who asked to pay) to drive left and at on Sunday it may prove to be a critical hole.

Park’s only driving error came at the 18th when, into the firm left-to-right breeze she found the fairway bunker and from there five is way more likely than four.

The afternoon was more difficult than the morning where anyone searching for the wind was looking something that didn’t existent and whilst Park isn’t leading at day’s end her 67 was likely the round of the day.

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