There may not be any more defense played in golf than there is in high jumping. But South Korea's Inbee Park continues to set the bar so high in the women's game that her fellow pros are feeling decidedly stymied.
One after another, Park's pursuers in the U.S. Women's Open acknowledged Saturday's challenge of a howling, good-for-sailing wind blowing through the Sebonack Golf Club; of the tricky 3-D greens and the dastardly pin settings. But plenty of them felt pretty good about dealing with those.
It was Park, gunning for her third straight major title Sunday, who literally was out of reach. "Inbee is playing awesome," said Paula Creamer, the American veteran who won this tournament in 2010 and was happy with her par 72 Saturday. "What are you going to do when you go against someone that's that hot?"
Of the 68 who survived the Open cut, none broke par Saturday -- except Park, with a 1-under 71. Only five equaled par, leaving Park four strokes in front at 10-under 206.
Given the elements, though, Brittany Lincicome found no particular frustration in her 74 on what she called "a very grinding day." As for Park: "I think Inbee's playing a different golf course," said Lincicome, a 2009 major tournament champion. "I don't know if you guys are aware of that yet.
"She's on a roll. There is nothing you can even do about it."
Cristie Kerr, the 2007 Open champ, likewise considered her 74 and 218 total a top 10 effort. "But, yeah, it's hard," she said, "to have somebody get out there far ahead and kind of almost dash your hopes."
Park, in the obvious starring role, has rendered everyone else a member of the chorus, finding strokes with seeing-eye putts on greens that continue to baffle her rivals.
"You get to the green," Lincicome said, "and there are two of us out there on the team reading the green together, and we're still reading it wrong. [But] Inbee is driving it straight and making those putts . . . It's awesome."
Brittany Lang, at 2 over, considered her 73 Saturday "a great round in that breeze," and her optimistic approach is that, "if the wind blows like this [today], you never know what can happen." But Lang immediately added what probably will happen. "Chances are, Inbee is going to win. She's too steady, and she's shooting under par in these conditions every day, which is unbelievable."
One plus to Park's recent dominance, Lang decided, was that Park's play "raises our game. So it doesn't bring us down" to remain in Park's jet stream.
"We could watch history Sunday," said Creamer, aware that Park could become the first woman to win the first three majors to begin a year since 1950. "It's remarkable."
And majors or not, "Three in a row is pretty outstanding," Lincicome said. "Because after [any victory], you're on such an adrenaline high that it's hard to come back down to earth and play that next week. It's incredible what she's doing."
It certainly complicates today's final round for everyone else. "Because," Lang said, "you're at a U.S. Open where par is a good score -- except for Inbee Park. I'm out there trying to stay short of the back pins, trying to make pars and have a good pace, but you're never going to catch her doing that."
The last resort -- out here among the Hampton retreats -- "is hoping she comes back to me," Lincicome said.