|Inbee Park: 1 more leg for Grand Slam, or is it 2?|
|Wednesday, July 03, 2013 12:47 AM|
The good news for LPGA Tour commissioner Mike Whan is that his sport is dominating the golf conversation, which is rare.
For the last two days, it seems like every time Whan turns on TV is he hearing about Inbee Park; that’s how it should be. When she completed a masterful week of putting and precision at Sebonack Golf Club, the 24-year-old South Korean had won the U.S. Women’s Open for her third straight major this year.
Next up is a chance for Park to do what no golfer has done in the history of the royal and ancient game — win four professional majors in a single season. Adding to the moment is the venue — the Women’s British Open will be at St. Andrews, the home of golf. Any other year, the golf world would be buzzing over the prospect of a Grand Slam.
But not this one. Because for such an historic occasion, there is way too much confusion.
It was Whan who decided for noble reasons in 2010 to elevate The Evian Championship in France to major championship status starting in 2013, giving the LPGA Tour five majors for the first time in its 63-year history. Just his luck, it turned out to be the year one of his players had a shot at the Grand Slam.
Except that winning four majors is not really a Grand Slam when there are five on the schedule.
“If you would have asked me as a golf nut about five majors, I would have said, ‘It doesn’t feel right to me’,” Whan recalled Tuesday morning. “Then you become commissioner of the LPGA Tour. Do you or don’t you? If you don’t … your job here is to grow the opportunities for women in the game worldwide. We don’t get the exposure anywhere near the men’s game except for three or four times a year and those are around the majors.
“Jump forward to 2013. The fact I can turn on the TV every night and the discussion is on the LPGA and five majors and what does this mean … the world views this as frustrating. In my own silly world, this is the most attention we’ve had in a long time.”
Golf always has been about four majors; at least it seems that way.
It dates to 1930 when Bobby Jones swept the biggest championships of his era — the British Open, British Amateur, U.S. Open and U.S. Amateur. George Trevor of the New York Sun referred to this feat as the “impregnable quadrilateral” of golf, while O.B. Keeler of the Atlanta Journal gave it a name that didn’t require a stiff upper lip. He called it a Grand Slam, a term from contract bridge that meant winning all 13 tricks.
The spirit of that term is a clean sweep, whether it’s four, five or 13.
Arnold Palmer gets credit for creating the modern version of the Grand Slam in 1960 when he won the Masters and U.S. Open and was on his way to play the British Open for the first time. He was traveling with Pittsburgh sports writer Bob Drum, who was lamenting that professional golf had led to the demise of what Jones had achieved in 1930. That’s when Palmer suggested a new Grand Slam by winning the four professional majors.
Comparisons between men’s and women’s golf are never easy, especially in the majors.
The PGA Tour and European Tour don’t own any of the four majors that its players have made famous. The press never bought into the notion of making The Players Championship a fifth major. It was Thomas Bonk of The Los Angeles Times who once wrote that there were “Three Stooges, Twelve Days of Christmas, Seven Dwarfs and four major championships.” Enough said.
The LPGA Tour now has eight majors in its official history. Babe Zaharias is the last player to win three straight majors on the calendar but that was in 1950 when that’s all there were. There was a 5-year stretch in the 1970s when there were only two.
And now there are five?
Women’s golf is not as steeped in tradition. More importantly, its pockets have never been very deep. That’s why the LPGA Championship, which dates to 1955, essentially took over what had been a regular tour event in Rochester, N.Y.
Tradition is the Kraft Nabisco, the only major played on the same course (Rancho Mirage) where the winner jumps into the pond.
Montgomerie misses out on British Open
GULLANE, Scotland — Colin Montgomerie’s rushed journey to take place in British Open qualifying on Tuesday was all in vain. The Scottish veteran failed to make the field for the major after struggling in wet conditions.
Montgomerie drove from Pittsburgh, where he finished ninth on Sunday in the Senior Players Championship, to New Jersey, then caught a flight home to Scotland — arriving Monday.
After a few hours of rest, he teed up Tuesday at the Gullane No. 1 course, east of Edinburgh, in the hope of securing one of three spots in golf’s oldest major, which starts July 18 at nearby Muirfield.
Montgomerie was tied for second after opening with a 69 in the morning but then got caught up in the slow play in the afternoon to shoot 76.
Montgomerie will now take a week off and return to the United States next week for the U.S. Senior Open in Omaha, Neb.
Australia’s John Wade shot a Dunbar course-record 7-under-par 63 to qualify, while Scotland’s Lloyd Saltman also qualified for his third British Open. Saltman, the leading amateur in the 2010 event at St. Andrews, lives close to Muirfield.
Others who qualified were Scotland’s Grant Forrest, Gareth Wright and George Murray; India’s Shiv Kapur; Sweden’s Oscar Floren; and five Englishmen: Jimmy Mullen, Steven Tiley, Tyrrell Hatton, Ben Stow and Matthew Fitzpatrick.
Els confirms he’ll play Scottish Open
INVERNESS, Scotland — Ernie Els will test his links game before defending the British Open title by playing in the Scottish Open, the traditional warm-up event for golf’s oldest major.
The 43-year-old South African has “very fond memories of my two wins in the Scottish Open and if I can win it a third time next week, it would be the perfect platform for my defense of The Open.”
The British Open will be staged in Scotland at Muirfield from July 18-21.
Tiger Woods keeps his December tournament
The World Challenge that Tiger Woods has hosted every holiday season since 1999 means so much to him that he spent what was believed to be about $4 million of his own money to help cover operating costs in a year it did not have a full title sponsor.
The future of the event is no longer in doubt. The World Challenge is back on the schedule this year.
“There wasn’t a doubt whether we could stage it. The question was whether we could get the necessary corporate support,” said Greg McLaughlin, the president of the Tiger Woods Foundation who also runs his tournaments. “We’re happy that we have a lot of support for the event that we’ve been able to generate the last few months.”
The tournament is scheduled for Dec. 5-8 at Sherwood Country Club in Thousand Oaks, Calif., where it has been since 2001. Graeme McDowell is the defending champion.
The Challenge is one of three tournaments this year that benefit the Foundation. The others are the AT&T National, which has one more year on its contract, and the Deutsche Bank Championship outside Boston. The foundation has taken over operations of that event from IMG.