Inbee Park wows LPGA Tour competitors

Gregory Shamus

With three straight LPGA and major championship wins, Inbee Park is making everyone -- including her weekly opponents -- take notice and pay their respects.

Inbee Park puts her three-game winning streak on the line this week at the Manulife Financial LPGA Classic in Waterloo, Ontario, where she’ll compete against the best players in women’s golf who want to halt her momentum at the same time that they can’t help but admire all she’s accomplished.

Park’s dominance of the LPGA includes three consecutive tour wins, as well as victories in the first three majors of the season, a run that has sparked comparisons between her success and that of Tiger Woods in his prime. For sure, what Park has achieved as she goes for four in a row has captured the attention of her star-spangled colleagues who will do everything they can starting Thursday to loosen the 24-year-old’s tight grasp on the world’s No. 1 ranking.

Paula Creamer has been around long enough in her nine year on tour to witness greatness, and she likened Park’s feats to those of a couple of Hall of Famers and the youngest golfer to win five majors.

“It's the same with Annika [Sorenstam] in '05 when she was so hot and then Lorena [Ochoa] came in after her, and now Yani [Tseng],” Creamer, who played junior golf with Park, told reporters Wednesday. “I mean, it's just kind of a domino effect. It's pretty neat to see that. Obviously we want to be that person in that chair.”

Creamer, like formerly top-ranked Stacy Lewis, believes Park’s renown helps the tour overall.

“When you know someone and you see how hard they work over such a long period of time, it's so impressive what she's doing,” said the 2010 U.S. Women’s Open titleholder. “But at the same time it's elevating all of us, it's where we need to be. If we're not, she's going to leave us all in the dust, she's just playing so well.

“Obviously streaks don't last forever, but what she's been doing is changing women's golf,” Creamer added, “and it's almost like the next Se Ri Pak movement for Korea. It's pretty interesting to watch.”

Lewis agreed.

“I've said it all year, I think our tour's in a great place,” said the winner of the 2011 Kraft Nabisco Championship. “What Inbee's doing, it's unbelievable really. You look at her numbers the last few weeks and the way she's winning and the way she's getting it done, it's just impressive. To play well with all the extra demands, with the extra attention is even better.

“So it's great what she's doing, it's a creating a lot of headlines for us, which is good,” added Lewis about Park, who made the talk-show rounds in New York after winning the U.S. Women’s Open 11 days ago. “She's getting the respect from the media that she deserves.”

Like Woods in his heyday, Park seems to force other players to adapt to her aggressive style of golf, chimed in Brittany Lang, who finished tied for seventh at the Open at Sebonack Golf Club.

“Normally when you play a U.S. Open, you're trying to hit fairways and greens and make pars and you're in good shape,” said Lang, who will have the pleasure of Park’s company in the first two rounds on the Grey Silo Golf Course. “But Inbee was 10-under par, and I felt like I was playing an Open like I was supposed to play an Open and I was 12 shots back.”

For Lang, competing with Park was like trudging through an Open every week.

“Exactly like that because she makes every putt and she doesn't make many mistakes,” Lang said. “That's exactly right, you do have to play more aggressive. I think she's making the tour better obviously, but she's making the players better for sure.”

Park, by the way, has captured the attention of some of her counterparts on the PGA Tour as well. Martin Kaymer, for one, was mesmerized by the South Korean's putting prowess during the Open, which he watched avidly on Golf Channel.

"In Inbee's case," the 2010 PGA champ who plans to attend the Solheim Cup in August, told Global Golf Post, "it's not just that she has a fantastic stroke and that all her putts seem to be the right weight. It's the way she reads the greens."

Kaymer's caddie, Craig Connolly, has carried the bag on the LPGA and attested to his employer's keen interest in Park's short game.

"Martin was gobsmacked by Inbee's performance," he told the publication. "Absolutely gobsmacked."

Connolly weighed in with his own assessment of Park's wizardry with the flat stick.

"She's the best putter in the world right now," he said.

Park, Lang, and Jessica Korda was slated to start on the first tee at 8:27 a.m. ET on Thursday.

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