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Inbee Park wins Women’s British Open for fourth different major title

TURNBERRY, Scotland – Is it or isn’t it a career grand slam? Inbee Park certainly thinks she’s done it after dazzling a hearty crowd of Scottish fans with a 7-under 65 Sunday to claim a three-shot victory at the Ricoh Women’s British Open.

“I’ve put my name on every single major championship,” she said.

Still, it’s a murky subject given that the LPGA has added a fifth major in the Evian Championship in 2013, and Park won it the year before.

The LPGA calls 27-year-old Park the seventh woman to win the career grand slam, joining giants like Mickey Wright, Louise Suggs, Annika Sorenstam, Karrie Webb, Juli Inkster and Pat Bradley. The oft-overlooked Park has now won four different majors, and a total of seven, putting her seventh on the list of all-time major winners with Juli Inkster and Karrie Webb.

“I still feel like I’m still a baby compared to all the legendary players,” said Park. “I still have a long way to go, still young.”

Reaching Patty Berg’s mark of 15 majors seems a bit much, given the depth of competition these days and the likelihood that Park, who married her instructor, will slow down to have children some time in the next few years.

Park’s caddie, Brad Beecher, speaks for many when he says that “this is the grand slam – this is what every woman and every man knows. It’s four majors; it’s not five.”

It’s a shame such debate detracts from the weight of Park’s accomplishments. She’s now won six of the past 14 majors, a winning clip of 43 percent.

On Sunday at Trump Turnberry, Park played the last 12 holes in 7 under to post a 12-under 276. She didn’t know until she signed her scorecard and looked at the leaderboard that 20-year-old Jin-Young Ko had doubled the 16th hole after knocking it in the burn and dropped to 9 under.

Interestingly, it was the 16th hole that likely won the week for Park.

“That was the toughest hole,” said Park. “I thought about that hole in my dreams.”

She birdied No. 16 three times this week, including Sunday, when she hit a gorgeous 6-iron to 3 feet.

“That’s probably at least four shots from all the other girls, I think,” she said.

Park came into this season with one goal: win the Women’s British Open. She called Sunday at Turnberry the greatest day of her life. Heady stuff from a woman who won three consecutive majors in 2013.

“There’s so much to overcome in the Women’s British Open,” she said, noting that luck plays a big part. From being on the right side of the draw to getting a fortunate bounce over a bunker or a good lie in the hay.

On the par-4 12th, Park’s ball landed near a drainage cover and she was able to take a free drop. The original lie was so poor, Park said, it looked like someone had stepped on it. It wasn’t until she stood over the ball that she felt something hard beneath her and called for a rules official.

“That was definitely a big luck,” she said. “That was a definite bogey there.”

Park began the week looking rather shaky with a sore lower back. She pulled out of the Tuesday pro-am to rest. She worried over her ball-striking after a poor showing on Sunday at the Meijer LPGA Classic, but as the week wore on, saw improvement. By Sunday, Beecher called her play “effortless.”

The most impressive work of Park’s final round came on the greens, where her putting was reminiscent to her red-hot days of 2013.

“She just set up over the ball, and it felt like it was going to go in,” said Beecher.

Peter Alliss compared her lovely rhythm to “the tick-tock of a grandfather clock.”

“It’s a gift given to few,” he said.

Park and Ko are managed by the same company and had dinner together in Scotland. Ko, who made her major debut at Turnberry, considers Park her idol.

“Overall, second is not bad for the first time,” said Ko.

With so many young Korean players like Ko and U.S. Women’s Open champ In Gee Chun hot on her heels, Park knows there’s no time to let up. She has a set a standard that thousands are clamoring to follow.

And while they can’t see inside her head, that’s the place where Park is most special. She’s got the kind of game that works on every type of course and in any kind of condition because it’s steady and repeatable. It’s a relentless type of golf, and it was a just a matter of time before luck bounced Park’s way at the British.

“I really feel like I play the same game wherever I go, whether it’s U.S. Open or British Open or Evian or wherever, I play the same,” she said. “But it’s just a different mindset sometimes going in. Especially British Open, you just never give up.

“There was probably like 10 times on the golf course, I really wanted to give up this week. When the rain was pouring down and the wind was blowing, when my 5?iron only went 100 yards, I just felt so bad. … I probably put my rain pants on and off 10 times this week. Sometimes those thing will put people off and they can’t be bothered with that.

“Just got to try to stick with what you’ve got.”

In Park’s case, that would be a strong mind, a patient approach and a champion’s spirit.

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