Inbee Park will take a seemingly insurmountable four-shot advantage into the final round of the U.S. Women’s Open on Sunday at Sebonack Golf Club.
While it would appear that the 24-year-old South Korean has her third consecutive major title wrapped up and is poised to join Babe Zaharias in the record books, with just 18 holes to play, a former world No. 1 suggested that the currently top-ranked player in women’s golf not get ahead of herself.
"The question is, how many strokes is too far behind coming into Sunday with Inbee Park leading the championship?” Sorenstam wondered during NBC’s broadcast of the third round of the tournament in which Park was the only player to break par. “But let's keep in mind that she's going for three majors in a row and she's never been in that situation. So never count your eggs before they hatch."
Sorenstam knows whereof she speaks, having entered the U.S. Women’s Open in 2005 on the precipice of becoming only the second golfer in LPGA history to win the first three majors of the season. She ended up in a tie for 23rd.
Park shot a third-round 1-under 71 to get to 10-under for the week, which put her four up on I.K. Kim. A win on Sunday would give her three straight victories and make her only the second LPGA Tour golfer ever to win a season’s first three majors. Zaharias accomplished the feat in 1950.
A first-place finish would also give Park a legitimate chance to win the grand slam, which, with the Evian Championship added as a major this year, would require her to win five major crowns in a season. All of which was very much on the mind of the eight-time tour winner who has five Ws in 2013.
"I'm going to try to do the same thing that I did for the last three days,” Park told reporters after battling Saturday's strong winds and tough pin positions. “It will be a big day, but it's just a round of golf. I just try not to think about it so much. I just try to concentrate on whatever I'm doing on the golf course.”
Park’s closest contender and good friend, Kim, conceded that her countrywoman was having a terrific week. She was not, however, willing to concede the match just yet.
“She is playing great. But you never know, I might have a great day tomorrow," Kim said. "So golf is a different thing than other sports. That's why you play four rounds."
While the drama of Jessica Korda firing her caddie midway through Saturday’s round and replacing him with her boyfriend threatened to upstage Park’s potentially record-matching accomplishment, another contender sought to keep the spotlight on the frontrunner.
"I think Inbee's playing a different golf course, which you guys are unaware of yet, but she’s on a roll,” said Brittany Lincicome. “There is nothing you can even do. She's playing so good right now.”