Inbee Park in control at U.S. Women's Open
Sebonack's stiff winds and fast greens, mixed with Inbee Park's dominance, created quite a vexing brew for everyone else in the U.S. Women's Open field Saturday. The other golfers did strange things, such as shooting well over par, and in one case, firing a caddie between holes.
Park left the course at 10 under par and a four-shot lead heading into the final round Sunday. Jason Gilroyed, the caddie for Jessica Korda, who is tied for sixth, 11 strokes back, left without a job. He was ousted between the ninth and 10th holes by the 20-year-old American pro.
"[We] had a couple of disagreements here and there, and I wasn't in the right state of mind," Korda said after she finished her round of 4-over-par 76. "I knew I needed to switch and just have a little bit more fun out there. It's a U.S. Open. It's tough out there."
It sure was tough Saturday. No one except Park broke par, and even she made three bogeys in a row during her 71, a rarity for the 24-year-old Korean who is trying to become the first person in 63 years to win the first three women's majors in a year. The tees were back, the wind was up, the greens were quicker and the pins were in more difficult locations. You could say the Open really finally arrived.
"It was just a very tough day, but I think I battled really good out there," said Park, four shots ahead of countrywoman I.K. Kim (73). Park's day turned for the better with a 30-foot birdie putt on the par-4 14th, which followed her rare string of bogeys. "I thought that putt was going to be short, going into the wind. I think I was just lucky there."
Two more birdies came the 15th and 18th, both par 5s. Kim, playing in the group, said: "I think we all have a chance. She is playing great. But you never know, I might have a great day tomorrow."
Still, it appears that Park is in good position to be the only one other than Babe Zaharias (1950) to win the first three women's majors in a year. Park is on the cusp of history and in the process, Korda's caddie was history.
"It was tough for me, because I care about Jason a lot. He is a great guy. That's just how it happens sometimes in life. It was very hard for me to do . . . It's a U.S. Open. It's a big week for me. I was just not in the right state of mind," said Korda, who shot 36 on the back nine after she pressed boyfriend and fellow pro golfer Johnny DelPrete into service.
"I just told him, 'Johnny, grab the bag. Let's go,' " Korda said. DelPrete will get the loop again Sunday while Korda's father, Petr, a former Australian Open tennis champion, will continue to carry for Jessica's 14-year-old sister, Nelly, also in the field. "They work really well together," Jessica said.
Not surprisingly, the player-caddie relationship is another of Park's strengths. She and Brad Beecher are a good team. Park laughed when she was told that someone in the field had made a switch between nines. "I've never experienced that before. That wouldn't be good," she said.
Beecher is especially good at reading greens, which is where Park excels. Jodi Ewart Shadoff, who was also in the final threesome, said, "You always have to expect that she's going to hole every putt because most of the time she does."
Nothing will be automatic Sunday. Park did have a mini-meltdown at the end of the previous major, the Wegmans LPGA, blowing a lead, then winning in a playoff. And she is facing pressure. "But I think you should be able to handle that," she said.
She is renowned for avoiding flare-ups, let alone firings. Before she left the course for a night with her parents and fiance, she said, "Whether I win or not, I'm just going to try to enjoy tomorrow."