ST. ANDREWS, Scotland – Inbee Park walked onto the first tee at St. Andrews under the cover of a mustard-colored umbrella. An early-morning Scottish mist had rolled over the Kingdom of Fife as Park, the undisputed Queen of Golf for the moment, smiled cooly and yawned occasionally as she prepared to begin the first leg of her fourth major conquest of the season at 7:03 a.m.
The nerves were pumping, Park would later concede after her 3-under 69, though it was impossible to tell. She drew back her Srixon driver in her familiarly deliberate manner and launched one down the the vast double fairway. She then hit a 9-iron to 15 feet and rolled in a birdie.
From there, Park made miles of putts on the front nine of the Old Course, rolling in a 30-footer on the third hole, a 20-footer on the fourth and a 40-footer on the sixth.
“It’s hard when she’s 3 under after four and you’re already four shots behind,” said opponent Jodi Ewart Shadoff.
Park was 6 under through 10 holes, looking like she would take control of the Ricoh Women’s British Open in a way similar to her walkaway at the U.S. Women’s Open.
But then, her driver started to leak. And after making bogey on the 13th hole from the hay, Park did the unthinkable. She three-putted from 90 feet after hitting it sideways out of a greenside bunker.
“I really lost my concentration in the middle of the round,” Park said. “I really just wanted to fix the swing. I couldn’t concentrate on the greens.”
Park’s double bogey on the 16th hole was her first double at a major since the 18th hole in Round 1 of the Wegmans LPGA Championship.
On the 17th – played as long par 4 this week – Park left a 7-iron 20 yards short of the hole and, again, left her first putt well short.
Back-to-back three-putts from Park on Nos. 16 and 17 left most everyone in a state of shock.
Ewart was asked: What if you were told at the beginning of the day that Inbee Park would have two consecutive three-putts? “I would have said ‘Don’t be silly.’ ”
“No way,” said Paula Creamer.
A three-putt from Park is as rare as a calm day of links golf. Both happened on Thursday, when light showers were the only bother on a day when low scoring reflected the lack of wind.
Park did manage to birdie the 18th, after putting a gap wedge to 8 feet, to shoot 69. It was one of the more disappointing 3-under rounds of her career, given the brilliant start.
“Felt like a roller coaster today,” she said. She hit 11 fairways, 15 greens and had 30 putts.
Fewer than 100 people were gathered ’round the first tee to watch Park begin her march toward what could be the most impressive feat in the history of women’s golf. Only a couple of dozen were standing around in the drizzle as she made her early charge, walking in miles of putts on these oversized greens. It was early, but still a small turnout for a community that’s so rich in golf history.
When Park was asked in her news conference if she felt like the crowd was pulling for her out there, she misheard the man in the back with the thick British accent.
“The crows?” she asked the moderator.
Park heads into the second round three shots behind Morgan Pressel. Park didn’t script the perfect opening round but certainly put herself in good position.
“Whether the result is good or bad, I’m just glad that it has already started,” Park said, “If I could walk out of this tournament with no regrets … that’s all I could ask for.”