U.S. Women’s Open champ Inbee Park inspires comparisons to Tiger Woods

Gregory Shamus

Tiger Woods and Inbee Park were not names one heard often in the same breath -- until Sunday, when the LPGA Tour star entered rarified air by winning her third straight major championship to start the 2013 season.

Tiger Woods did not win the U.S. Women’s Open on Sunday but the owner of the so-called Tiger Slam was on the minds of many after Inbee Park notched her third straight major victory with a four-shot triumph at Sebonack Golf Club.

Park, with an 8-under tally for the week, became the second LPGA Tour golfer to win the first three majors in a season and the first to do so in a year when at least four will be played. The dominance of the 24-year-old from South Korea, who is three-for-three in her last tour starts and has eight Ws and five second-place finishes in her last 24, has her tour opponents running as scared of Park as Woods’ playing partners were of him in his heyday.

“Inbee is playing awesome,” 2010 U.S. Women’s champ Paula Creamer told reporters after Saturday’s round that left Park with a four-shot lead heading into Sunday’s finale. “She is just playing fantastic golf. What are you going to do when you go against someone that's hot? You have got to kind of match her and practice harder, work harder. She is one of the best putters I think I've ever seen. Right now she's just literally making everything.”

Na Yeon Choi, No. 4 in the world to Park’s No. 1, figuratively shrugged her shoulders about her countrywoman’s play.

“I think she is amazingly sound,” Choi said Saturday. “I mean, if someone asked me what is her weakness in her game, I don't think there is [and]....I think she's great.”

Brittany Lincicome, the 2009 Kraft Nabisco Championship titleholder, suggested that the golf world may want to start taking notice of the low-key nine-time tour winner.

“I think Inbee's playing a different golf course, which you guys are unaware of yet, but she's on a roll. There is nothing you can even do,” Lincicome said to the media Saturday. “It’s incredible what she’s doing.”

Park’s peers were not the only ones shocked and awed by her runaway win, which set her up to take aim at the four-major Grand Slam next month at the British Open and, with a win at St. Andrews, an improbable run at a fifth major in one season, the newly elevated Evian Championship in September.

"This is just one of the most dominant stretches of golf we have ever seen. It is history in the making today and it reminds you of what Tiger Woods has done, what Rory McIlroy has been able to do in a couple of majors,” NBC’s Dan Hicks said during Sunday’s broadcast. “It is that level of golf and it only comes so rarely."

Park’s skills and supremacy are right up there with those of Woods when he took control of men’s golf with his four consecutive major wins that spanned the 2000-2001 seasons. What’s missing from the hottest player on the planet are the glitz and glamor that continue to surround each and every Tiger win.

“Believe it or not, I was very calm all day,” Park calmly told reporters after adding her name to the history books alongside Babe Zaharias as the only tour golfers to go three-for-three in majors to start a season. “I was very nervous last night...but on the golf course I just felt very calm.”

While Park attempted to divert attention from what will likely be more notice than she’s ever attracted when she gets to The Old Course ("Yeah, don't tell me about it," she said), she let slip a notion that should have her opponents quaking in their FootJoys.

“It’s scary to think what I’m capable of,” Park said in a moment of complete candor.

No doubt, PGA Tour victims harbored similar sentiments about a certain red-shirted fellow who once won majors with the frequency of Inbee Park.

“In what is arguably the toughest test in women’s golf, for her to walk around here and do it in such nonchalant fashion and dominate the field,” the multi-tasking Tim Rosaforte marveled on NBC. “It is not as dynamic or exciting or as fist-pumping as what Tiger Woods did, but if you look at the numbers and look at the record, it is just as impressive.”

And certainly just as note-worthy.

“This is an incredible feat,” 10-time major champion Annika Sorenstam said during NBC’s Sunday telecast. “I hope people understand that.”

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