If you play the coulda, woulda, shoulda game in golf, it can drive you crazy. But the simple fact is that Levittown's Annie Park coulda made the cut at the U.S. Women's Open based on her ball-striking, woulda made it if she had putted halfway decently, and left feeling she shoulda made it just by playing her usual game.
Coming off a disappointing opening round of 7-over-par 79, Park shot a second-round 75 Friday at Sebonack that left her with a 36-hole total of 10-over 154. When play was suspended by fog, the cut line was at 5 over and projected to go to 6 over, which means that Park could have made it merely by turning her five three-putts into two-putt greens.
Just as maddening were all the makeable birdie putts she missed. Park's second round had a chance to be one of the day's best, but she missed four short birdie putts on the front nine, had a three-putt bogey on the par-3 seventh, lipped out a par putt at the 14th hole and just missed birdie putts at Nos. 15, 16 and 18.
"If those putts dropped," Park said, "I would have been 3 or 4 under easily. But it's golf."
In other words, Park understands she played better than her score indicated, but sometimes it's tough to get the ball in the hole. The key is that Park's putting woes didn't keep her from hitting shot after shot close enough to have a chance at birdie.
"I started to get used to the pressure and all the attention," the 18-year-old said. "It was definitely frustrating. I just couldn't get over the putts that I missed. But you just learn from them."
The past six months have been one glorious learning experience for Park. She wrapped up her studies at MacArthur High School in December and enrolled for the spring semester at the University of Southern California, where she won the Pac-12, NCAA West Regional and NCAA individual titles and helped the Trojans to team titles in all three.
"I wanted to accomplish some goals that I had beginning this past semester," Park said when asked to reflect on how far she's come this year. "I've accomplished more than expected, and I feel just great and honored to be part of USC."
Justin Silverstein, USC's assistant women's golf coach, spent the first two days of the tournament following four Trojans in the field. He marveled at Park's maturity and ability to manage not only her game but herself while taking women's college golf by storm.
But nobody's perfect in golf. While watching Park miss birdie putts of 7 feet at No. 4, 6 feet at No. 6, 4 feet at No. 8 and 9 feet at No. 9, Silverstein said: "She calls herself a 'streaky putter.' I wish she'd stop doing that. If you say it enough, you believe it."
Park said she usually is able to get back on track after a bad hole or a bad nine, but she kept stopping her momentum with off-center putts. "Mentally, it was frustrating," she said. "I was hitting it good; it was just my putts. They didn't drop in."
Two tough days at the U.S. Open didn't break Annie Park. If anything, they showed her how good she can become. As she said, "I feel like I can, you know, be at the top."
Just give her time.