Park Talks about the Challenge This Week


Inbee Park is on the cusp of making golf history. With a victory this week in the Women's British Open the 25-year-old South Korean will become the first golfer - male or female - to win four professional major championships in the same season.

She's already matched the all-time mark of winning three straight majors at the start of a season set by Babe Didrikson Zaharias in 1950, and now has the chance to march into uncharted territory.

What's particularly special about her quest this week will be that the Women's British Open is taking place at the Home of Golf, the Old Course at St. Andrews.

The big question is how the low-key Park will handle the quest to do something no other golfer has done before. It appears she's mentally prepared for the challenge. "Obviously, it is tougher to play under pressure than without the pressure," she told reporters on Tuesday.

"This is what I love to do, and if the pressure is something that comes with playing good golf, that's something a professional golfer has to handle, something that I need to handle for doing something I like. So, yeah, I love to do that - instead of, you know, it's much better than playing in the first group out and nobody is watching than having the pressure; yeah, I think I would be playing in the last group and feel the pressure all the time."

Here's what else Park who, in addition to her three victories in the Kraft Nabisco Championship, LPGA Championship and U.S. Women's Open majors has won three other tournaments this year, had to say to the media from St. Andrews.

MODERATOR: Ladies and gentlemen, we have Inbee Park, the world No. 1 with us. Inbee comes in having won the first three legs of the Grand Slam, and you finished I believe 11th the last time the Open was here. Are you glad to be back?

INBEE PARK: Yeah, I'm glad to be back here at St. Andrews and looking forward to playing this week.

MODERATOR: You're obviously going to be bombarded with questions about the Grand Slam; does that make it a little bit more difficult to perform well this week?

INBEE PARK: I'm just really getting used to it, because I've heard about St. Andrews so many times before I came here this week. At first, I felt the pressure, but then, you know, as the time goes by, the more experience I get, I really started to get used to it, and once I get on the golf course, I don't get really think about it so much. When I'm off the golf course, I feel the pressure, but I try to concentrate on the golf course.

Q. As we were hearing earlier on from Stacy Lewis, that she found it very difficult to tell if you were playing well or playing badly, because you seem so even tempered, is that part of your secret this year, because you don't get too up or too down, depending if your golf is good?

INBEE PARK: I think that's been my personality forever since I was a little kid. My emotions don't express so much on my face. Yeah, that's just how I play golf, and it's been working really good on the golf course, so I think found myself, I figured that it was going to be very good on the golf course, and that's why I think I'm that way. I think it helps a lot, you know, when you are on the golf course when your emotions are very calm. Your feelings are very calm, so I think it helps you to play the game a little bit more consistent.

Q. People talk about pressure, and they often mean pressure from outside influences, but presumably, as a top professional golfer, you bring a lot of your own pressure to play the best golf you can every day.

INBEE PARK: Yeah, obviously it is tougher to play under pressure than without the pressure. This is what I love to do, and if the pressure is something that comes with playing good golf, that's something a professional golfer has to handle, something that I need to handle for doing something I like. So, yeah, I love to do that - instead of, you know, it's much better than playing in the first group out and nobody is watching than having the pressure; yeah, I think I would be playing in the last group and feel the pressure all the time.

Q. We would just like to say that we believe that your putting is the greatest part of your game, and wondering if you have received any tips from fellow pros, maybe even Japanese players throughout the years?

INBEE PARK: I try to learn something from other people's stroke or other people's putting, but maybe they give me a tip but I try to look for like Ai Miyazato's putting stroke for her rhythm and other people's putting strokes, you can learn something from them. I haven't really asked for advice, but I'm sure if I asked for advice, they would have given me some advice.

Q. You talked about since you were a little girl, you were calm, but you've also consulted with a sports psychologist a little bit. I wonder some of the things you've talked to her about and anything you've talked to her about going into this week.

INBEE PARK: Yeah, she makes me a happier person. She makes me a happier person on the golf course and outside the golf course. She teaches me how to handle the pressure on the golf course, and how to enjoy the game of golf, what things to concentrate when I'm on the golf course. It changes every week, but we try to sort it out. She's here this week -

MODERATOR: What's the name of your psychologist?

INBEE PARK: Sookyung Cho.

Q. Am I right that you went to Korea - are you a little worried that that's a hectic schedule? When you did you actually get into the U.K.?

INBEE PARK: I was tired physically, but I was a lot more happier mentally being able to see friends and family and being able to communicate with my fans when I get back home. Physically, I'm a bit tired, but mentally, I was a lot more happier and that gives me a lot of energy coming into this week. So I'm trying to take the positives out of it.

Q. Also, have you been able to practice the specific kind of game you need for this course? It's a different kind of game from what you usually play.

INBEE PARK: Yeah, obviously we have to - the wind is a factor this week. I'm kind of a low ball flight hitter, and I think this golf course really suits my eye and this golf course really suits my game. St. Andrews has big greens with some big ridges. You're going to hit a lot of greens here, and you're going to have putts that are 30 yards long, 20 yards long. You have to be a good pace putter. I'm going to hit a lot of putts, so I think it kind of comes to my advantage that I get to use my putter a lot on this golf course. Being in the bad weather, my ball flight is very low, so that also comes into my advantage.

Q. I wonder if you can just share with us how big this story is back home in Korea? You were there last weekend; is the possibility of a Grand Slam, is it leading the sports news? Is it leading the news?

INBEE PARK: Can you repeat the question?

MODERATOR: Is it a big story, the Grand Slam in your country?

INBEE PARK: If I would achieve?

MODERATOR: At the moment.

INBEE PARK: At the moment I think I'm getting a lot of attention from everywhere, especially back home in Korea, they are really - yeah, it's really big in Korea. Everybody is expecting me to play well, and I have got so many people praying for me, so many people wishing me luck; it's amazing how many people are on my sides, and I think that really comes to my advantage. It really gives me a lot of good energy to come into this weekend and it really motivates me and gives me inspiration to play well this week. It's huge everywhere, I can feel it. But we'll see after this week.

Q. Could you talk about the difference between Korean temperaments and western temperaments?

INBEE PARK: There is calm Korean players and there is not calm Korean players and there is calm western players. It's tough to say which side is better.

Q. In general, I've never seen Korean players tossing their clubs around the place or look temperamental on the surface; Koreans do seem to keep their feelings under wraps, don't they?

INBEE PARK: We always learn to be calm on the golf course and not to be so mad on the golf course since we were young kids. So we are used to controlling our feelings and being calm on the golf course. We see a lot of players - some players get mad over the ball, but they don't express so much on the golf course I think.

Q. You mentioned when you're between the ropes, it's the calmest time for you. Everything else, the interviews and stuff, is that more stressful in some ways than going out and concentrating on playing golf?

INBEE PARK: Sometimes all the medias and all the interviews, those are the toughest thing for me, but once you really start to do it a lot and start to get used to it, I can find some fun in those parts, too. Because golf and playing golf on the golf course is the most easiest thing for me, and that's something I'm so used to, that's why it was always easy. But I'm getting used to the other parts of golf, also. Yeah, it's getting there, but obviously yeah, I am the happiest when I'm on the golf course.

Q. I'm writing a story about Lorena winning here in 2007. She's not here to repeat her feat in 2007, but going back to 2007 and coming here for the first time, as a top player in the world, do you think that it was meant to be?

INBEE PARK: For Lorena? She was playing so good, I remember that was my first year on Tour, and she was just unbeatable. She was such a great player. She had a great swing and great putting. She was just playing so well that I couldn't really even look up to, she was that good. For her to win at St. Andrews was going to be a very special memory for her, even when she retired, I think this is one of the tournaments that she's going to remember because this is a very special tournament and this is a very special golf course. Every part of this tournament is very special. So I'm sure it would have felt the same way for Lorena, and it would feel the same way for me, too.

Q. There's been some subtle changes to the golf course since you were here in 2007. Have you noticed them out there?

INBEE PARK: I noticed 17 became a par-4. We played it as a par-5 when we were here in 2007, and they were saying that No. 17 bunker was a little bit deeper, and now it's a little bit shallower. I don't really remember being in the 17 bunker and know exactly how high it was. But still, you don't want to be in the bunker. I played two different golf courses yesterday and today, no wind yesterday and it blew today. The clubs that I was hitting into was totally different and the greens were getting firmer. The course conditions can change dramatically, so you really need to watch out what course you're playing.

Q. You also mentioned you were looking forward to the breakfasts in Britain. Have you had some nice Scottish breakfast so far?

INBEE PARK: Yeah, I had some outside the car park there, the food was great. I love the bacon and the eggs here.

Q. Haggis?

INBEE PARK: Yeah.

Q. You won the U.S. Open in '08 and then were quiet and then you started winning, kick started at Evian last year - is there a key factor that's brought on this great spell?

INBEE PARK: Yeah, pretty much everything in my game to my mentality, when I won in '08, I was just very young, just 19, and won a big event. I wasn't experienced on the LPGA Tour. It was only my second year on the Tour. I think those times - it was some time that I needed to get used to the tour, get used to traveling, get used to everything, get to know somebody, get to know - and it was tough, and I expected more.

Q. Was it more of a maturing process yourself?

INBEE PARK: Yeah, my swing improved over the years, and playing improved over the years, and my thinking process, everything, yeah.

Q. Have you been a student of golf history and reading up on achievements of the past, and if so, can you put what you could do this week and indeed what you already have done this year into that context?

INBEE PARK: I would like to inspire a lot of young golfers. But I don't try to put so much pressure on myself to have to win this week. I mean, you know, three wins, three major wins this year is I think very good for me, something that I really never expected to be doing. You know, having this kind of opportunity at the British Open, and just the fact that I could have this kind of opportunity is very special. It's an experience that I'll remember forever. Yeah, if it could happen, it's something that I will never forget. My name will be in the history of golf forever, even after I die, so it will be some special feelings, yeah.

Q. Women's golf in Korea and all the great achievements that women players have had, is it ahead of men's golf in business terms, in media terms, or do you still have to fight the men's game for attention?

MODERATOR: Is the women's game in Korea bigger than the men's?

INBEE PARK: I'd say it is bigger. The women's game is bigger than the men's in Korea, because they have a lot more tournaments, first, and a lot of women come out to the LPGA Tour, Korean women came out to the LPGA Tour and competing at a world class level. We just outnumber them. There is very good Korean men players that are competing in a world class - but there is a lot more women. People are just a lot more familiar to women's golf. The amateurs in Korea say they can relate their game to women's better than men's, like the driving distance is similar. The men, they out drive them 70 to 80 yards and are playing just a totally different game. I talked to a couple amateurs and they said that they really can't relate their game to Korean men, and the Korean men's tour and Korean women's tour, they find the Korean women's tour more interesting.

Q. Do you see Catriona Matthew as a potential threat for you this week?

INBEE PARK: Yeah, Catriona, I played with her in Wegman's. We played in a playoff, and she's a very good ball striker and this kind of golf course really suits her game. So yeah, definitely, I think Catriona is one of the players that I need to look out for this week, yeah.

Q. She is one of only two Scot as the field; does it surprise you that you've come to Scotland and there's only two Scottish players in the field?

INBEE PARK: Oh, really? I thought there would be more than that. But yeah, she's a very good player.

Q. Can you talk about the style of game that you've had to play at Wegman's compared with Sebonack for the Women's Open, and how that will serve you going forward here?

INBEE PARK: Well, totally different golf course than Sebonack. I played pretty much two different golf courses. At Locust Hill, you need to hit fairways and fairways is the most important thing on that golf course, and Sebonack is a second shot golf course and you need to place your second shot in the right positions and the greens were tough. It was different, but if you can hit it straight every shot and hole some putts, it doesn't matter what golf course you play. So winning at Locust Hill gave me a lot of confidence, because I thought ball striking, hitting it straight is the weakest part of my game, so, yeah, that tournament the confidence was good for me.

Q. I know everybody is here to win for themselves, but I'm just wondering, maybe in particular some of your closer friends on Tour, whether they are South Koreans or wherever they are from, have they reached out to you to give you any extra good thoughts going into this week because of what you're trying to do?

INBEE PARK: Didn't really get time to talk to so many people. Everybody was just busy. And especially I was so busy in Korea what I was there. And came here, I was busy with a practice round and didn't really talk to them so much yet. But, yeah, tonight I'm having dinner with a couple of good friends, so, yeah, maybe tonight.

Q. (Inaudible.)

INBEE PARK: No, I didn't buy anything for myself, but I got a couple of very good presents in Korea. When I was there last week, I got a new Ferrari and I got a gold putter.

Q. Which do you like better?

INBEE PARK: I like both (smiling).

Q. I was actually going to ask you about the Ferrari. In terms of Korea, can you just give us a little glimpse to what it was like when you went home and how life is different for you now, like on the streets, because I know the question was asked at Wegman's if you could walk down the street and if anybody would notice you in downtown Seoul, and you said if you were in your golf clothes probably not.

INBEE PARK: I wasn't in my golf clothes when I was walking down the street but a lot of people were recognizing me. I was very surprised when I got to the airport, there was so many people there. Yeah, I feel like a lot of people - a lot more people recognize me now. I was just driving by - one of the episodes was I was driving by the toll gate and some lady was giving me a ticket, a toll ticket and she was like, "Oh, are you Inbee Park," and she was stopping my car. So there was a lot of episodes there. It's cool to be recognized and to have a lot of fans and I think that really helps me.

Q. Did she charge you?

INBEE PARK: She charged me, yeah. (Laughter).

Q. What model of Ferrari?

INBEE PARK: FX.

Q. Just to be clear on this, they gave it to you, the Ferrari?

INBEE PARK: Yeah, I'm getting it for a year.

Q. For a year?

INBEE PARK: For a year, yeah.

Q. You talked a lot about being able to block out pressure moments like that, and just get on to the golf course. Where did you learn to do that?

INBEE PARK: Where did I learn to do that?

Q. And is it hard to do.

INBEE PARK: Well, yeah, I think most of the part, I've learned a lot from my experience in the past, and the second is I learned to control my feelings a lot by my mental coach. Yeah, I think experience really helps you, and I was very nervous the first time when I was in the last group. But after being in the last group about 20 times, you feel the pressure, but you have experience with it, so it becomes less and less. Over the years, I just feel it a little bit less and less and I control my feelings better on the golf course all the time.

Q. Is it harder now than it might have been at Sebonack to realize what you've done and what's at stake? You were two, going for third in a row, and now you're going for four in a row; is it harder than it was at the Women's Open?

INBEE PARK: Yeah, it was hard, but I really didn't expect something from that. I didn't really expect anything from me that week. I really tried not to put pressure on myself. I kept thinking, you know, it's okay if I don't win. I've already won five times, and just wanting more is wanting too much I thought. I thought, there's no expectations and go out there and just have fun, and that really worked. So that's something I'm trying to do this week.

MODERATOR: What color is the Ferrari?

INBEE PARK: It's red.

MODERATOR: Of course. Inbee, thank you very much. Good luck this week.

The transcript for the above interview is courtesy of ASAP Sports.


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