World No. 1 Park In-bee of South Korea is aiming to make headlines with her Korean rivals as the British Open kicks off its four-day run at the Old Course in St. Andrews, Scotland, Thursday.
Heavy favorite Park aims to make history at the course, regarded as the “home of golf,” where the sport was first played in the early 1400s, by adding a first British Open to her three major wins.
The 25-year-old Seoul native captured titles at Kraft Nabisco, the LPGA Championship and U.S. Open. A win in the Women’s British Open would make her the first golfer to win four majors in one season.
(from top) Park In-bee, Shin Ji-yai
Jack Nicklaus, Tiger Woods and Annika Sorenstam got halfway toward that goal. Woods (2000-01) and Mickey Wright (1961-62) are the only players to have won four straight professional majors, though never in the same calendar year. Woods was the last player to win three straight majors in a single season.
Park has the best shot at it, with wins at three LPGA Tour majors this year.
However, if Park does win on Sunday, there remains a debate over whether to call it a Grand Slam. This year, the LPGA Tour upgraded the Evian Masters to major status for the first time, and she will defend that title next month.
Slam or not, four major wins in a row would be an incredible achievement. On her way to the honorable throne stands another favored compatriot of the same age: defending champion Shin Ji-yai.
Shin, from South Jeolla Province, first won the 2008 British Open as a teenager, before recapturing the title a second time last year.
Asked at the press conference if the British Open was her favorite tournament, she said, “Of course.”
Shin battled through wind and rain to repeat the feat a year ago.
She cites inclement weather and a difficult course as hurdles to clear in the tournament. Park also admits that weather and deep bunkers are potential stumbling blocks. Plus, wide greens may trouble them in putting.
Among the 21 Korean golfers in the tournament, Ryu So-yeon, the 2011 U.S. Open champion, is the most likely to score a surprise win, though the news media has not paid her much attention.
Apart from the professional field, Lydia Ko, a Korean-born 16-year-old, received attention for her young age as well as her great potential. Ko, a New Zealand resident, is the youngest among the 144 players in the Open.
She is currently the world’s top-ranked woman in amateur golf. Ko made her British Open debut last year and took joint 17th position.
Korean golf fans are keen on this year’s British Open, eager to see whether Park will rewrite history, Shin will succeed in her defense, or someone else will take the title.
By Chun Sung-woo (email@example.com)