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Inbee Park Seeks Historic Grand Slam this Week
Ever since she won the first three majors of 2013, Inbee Park has been in the spotlight. Golf fans have also been keeping an eye on the Women's British Open, the fourth of five major championships on the LPGA Tour and the tournament where Park can make history.
So far this season, the 25-year-old South Korean has swept the Kraft Nabisco Championship, LPGA Championship and U.S. Women's Open to tie the fabled Babe Didrikson Zaharias (in 1950) as the only female golfer to win the first three majors of the season.
Amazingly, Park has also tacked on three other victories this year, cementing her place as the No. 1-ranked player in women's golf.
And what better place to become the first golfer - male or female - to win four professional major championships in a single season than at the Old Course at St. Andrews, the Home of Golf?
That's the scenario this week as Park and the best women players in the world have arrived at the centuries-old course along the east coast of Fife in Scotland.
"I'm really looking forward to going there and playing for the fourth major win," Park said. "Not many people, not many golfers get that kind of opportunity, winning three majors and going for a calendar Grand Slam at the British Open on such a historic golf course."
Only Mickey Wright (1961-62) and Tiger Woods (2000-2001) have won four consecutive professional majors, though neither did so in the same calendar year. Bobby Jones won four major championships in a single season in 1930, but those included two amateur events which were then considered majors.
Wright (1961) and Pat Bradley (1986) are the only other players in LPGA history to win three majors in a season, though not consecutively. Bradley, for one, hopes Park can do it. "I'm really rooting for Inbee," she said. "I thought the U.S. Open would be the hardest part for her, but she breezed through it. It feels like destiny for her to do this at St. Andrews."
Another interested observer is Annika Sorenstam. The 72-time LPGA winner understands the pressure of making history after becoming the first female to play on the PGA Tour since 1945 (something Zaharias did in three tournaments) when she entered the 2003 Colonial.
"As a competitor it was always a goal of mine to win the Grand Slam in a season," said the Swede, who retired from competition in 2008. "After having won the first two in 2005, I know the challenges that you face with the expectations, media exposure, etc. To have won three in a row, I can't imagine the pressure she will probably feel."
But, because the accomplishment would happen at the Old Course, Park's fourth major would be uniquely groundbreaking. "It doesn't get any bigger than that," Sorenstam. "Nobody, male or female has won four professional majors in a row in the same season and this would be one of the biggest feats in golf history. The fact that it could be done at St. Andrews and the home of golf would make it that much more special."
The Women's British Open starts Thursday. Park has the fourth tee time (2:03 a.m. EDT) and is paired with England's Jodi Ewart Shadoff and Spain's Beatriz Recari. The 26-year-old Recari won the LPGA's most recent tournament, the Marathon Classic in Ohio.
The defending champion is South Korea's Jiyai Shin, who strolled to a record-setting nine-stroke win last year at Royal Liverpool. Shin, who finished at 9-under 279, was the only player to break par over 72 holes.
For more information about the Women's British Open, visit www.lpga.com.