Inbee Park: How the Juggernaut Keeps Juggering

Inbee Park extended her lead in the U.S. Women’s Open to 9-under and two strokes over I.K. Kim. Even more impressive is that she’s five strokes over 3rd place, Lizette Salas. (Jodi Ewart Shadoff is also at 4-under with Salas, but she was only through the 15th hole when play was suspended due to fog.) And Park was feeling pretty good about it:

It was great.  I had hit the ball so good today.  I mean, I didn’t miss many shots out there.

But it wasn’t because it was all wine and roses:

Gave [away] a lot of opportunities at birdie in this kind of conditions where there was wind and fog.  Everything was very tough conditions out there to play in. 

But instead of allowing the conditions to discourage her or weary her with the weight of the world on her shoulders — she has a chance to win three majors in a row — she embraced them as a positive catalyst for her round. They heightened her consciousness and reminded her that in the U.S. Open, you sign up for “tough” because it makes victory that much more rewarding and significant. It’s the reason everybody gets, “I Survived ____” T-Shirts:

I think I really played good out there.  I mean, it really made me think today that with the wind and fog, it just really made me think.  I think that is what the U.S. Open is all about.

Only one other woman has won three majors in a row, Babe Didrikson Zaharias, one of the founding players of the LPGA and an icon for women’s golf and Olympic athleticism. In 1950, she won all three majors on the Tour: The Titleholders Championship, The Women’s Western Open and the U.S. Women’s Open. She is revered in the history of women’s golf and joining her company would be an indelible distinction for Park. And because of that, she tries not to think about it:

It’s tough not to think about it, but I’m — I just try to think that’s not a big deal.  If I want to do it so much, it’s just so tough and it puts too much pressure on you.  Try to not think about so much.

So in practical terms, how do you avoid thinking about “pink elephants?” By becoming a spectator to your own thoughts rather than being absorbed in them. By watching the thought come up…and then letting it go. “Oh, there’s that thought again.” And then letting it go rather than examining it or reveling in it or being afraid of it or allowing it to envelop your mind. It takes practice like anything else and is best done with a hint of humor and amazement, as in, “There’s that damn thing again! Can you believe it? Geez! Leave me alone already. I’m working here!”

One of the critical issues that came up as Inbee’s round drew to a close was the fog that was slowing rolling in and thickening. Do you stop playing 18 when the USGA gives you the option or do you try to finish the round so you don’t have to show up at 7 am to finish one hole?:

On 16, I was able to see the flag. And then 17, it just got a little bit very foggy and last hole was very foggy. But I see it to until about 150 yards and that was it.  I really wanted to finish today and get a good rest and be fresh for tomorrow.

Yeah, but isn’t that a big risk? You can’t even see the fairway to hit your tee shot? This is where we catch just another glimpse of the comprehensive talent of this young woman and the degree to which she trusts that talent:

I mean, it was just the one hole that we needed to play, so, I mean, I would definitely play it anyways.  You know what the hole looks like, you just really need to trust in yourself.

And finally, we have a cookie-cutter quote that we hear all the time from players who have one of those “almost” great rounds, “I could have shot ___ if only ___.” But the gold in this instance is what she says in the second sentence:

Yeah, I think I could have shot 65 today if my putter was really going.  Yeah, but I mean, 4‑under is I think good enough for this golf course.

The significance of, “…4-under is I think good enough for this golf course,” is that it reveals the peace with which she is playing. The self-control with which she is playing. Rather than brooding over the possibility that her 68 could have been a 65, she demonstrated her comprehensive understanding of what a good score was given the course, what other players were doing and especially the conditions. It had the sense of including every pertinent factor and was a satisfied “knowing” that 68 was, indeed, enough.

And that’s how the juggernaut keeps juggering.

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