SOUTHAMPTON, N.Y. – Inbee Park prefers not to think that she is pursuing history as well as her fourth major championship this week.
As the 54-hole leader at the 68th U.S. Women's Open at Sebonack Golf Club, the 24-year-old Korean is on the verge of placing her name with the greats of the game.
"It's tough not to think about it … I just try to think that's not a big deal," said Park, who has already won the Kraft Nabisco Championship and Wegmans LPGA Championship this season. "If I want to do it so much, it's just so tough and it puts too much pressure on you. [I] try to not think about it so much."
No doubt others are, though.
“It's remarkable. I mean, we could watch history tomorrow of what she has been doing,” said 2010 U.S. Women’s Open champion Paula Creamer. “Like I said, winning a major, one major, is tough enough. Winning three in a row, that's pretty impressive.”
A win on Sunday would give Park:
- Four major championships, when you add her 2008 U.S. Women's Open victory to the three she will have won this year. With four majors, Park would join a sorority that includes Americans Susie Maxwell Berning, Donna Caponi, Sandra Haynie, Meg Mallon and Hollis Stacy, and Laura Davies of England. Only 15 players in history have won more than four.
- Wins in the first three majors of 2013, making her the second player in LPGA Tour history to win the first three majors in a season. In 1950, Mildred (Babe) Didrikson Zaharias won all three majors played that year – the Titleholders Championship, the Women’s Western Open and the U.S. Women’s Open.
- Three majors in a season, making her one of four women to win three majors in a calendar year, joining Zaharias (1950), Mickey Wright (1961) and Pat Bradley (1986).
On the men's side, in the professional era only Ben Hogan (1953) has won the first three majors of the season. (He did not play in the PGA Championship, because it conflicted with the British Open.) In 2000, Tiger Woods won the final three majors of the season, then captured the 2001 Masters to complete the “Tiger Slam.”
Earlier this week, Stacy Lewis, who held the world's No. 1 ranking for four weeks before Park ascended to the position in April, believes Park's mindset is in a good place for such a historic run.
"She's just always there, always giving herself a chance, and nothing really seems to faze her," Lewis said. "That's the big thing. She just makes putt after putt after putt, and she's there at the end of the day."
In expanding the discussion to winning every major in a season, Park faces a daunting task.
Only Bob Jones has won what is considered the Grand Slam. In 1930, Jones won the U.S. and British Amateurs and U.S. and British Opens. What Zaharias accomplished in 1950 is akin to a Triple Crown, as they were the only three majors that year.
From 1955-1966 and 1983-2012, the LPGA held four majors. This year, there will be a fifth. The Women's British Open in August is the next major, followed by September's Evian Championship, which will be counted as a major by the LPGA for the first time.
Considering this growing number, maybe Park is right; it is best not to think about the major ramifications.
Stuart Hall is a North Carolina-based freelance writer whose work frequently appears on USGA championship websites.