US Open not a walk in the park for No. 1 In Bee

MIAMI • Park In Bee will take a low-key approach to the women's US Open starting today as she aims to cement the legacy of compatriot Pak Se Ri with her eighth Major title.

Twenty years ago, Pak blazed a trail for Korean golfers when she stormed to victory at the 1998 US Open, a spectacular triumph that encouraged many of her compatriots to take up the sport.

"Back in '98, I was really just a kid," Park, 29, said on Tuesday.

"My dad was really a big fan of golf. I remember him getting really excited early in the morning watching Se Ri play. After that, there was a big golf boom in Korea and a lot of the girls my age were starting to play golf. I was one of them."

In 1998, Pak was the sole South Korean golfer plying her trade on the LPGA Tour. There are now more than 50 Korean players on the LPGA and, last year, Korean women picked up three of the five Majors.

Unsurprisingly, world No. 1 Park will start as favourite at Shoal Creek Golf and Country Club in Alabama.

The Olympic champion, a 2008 and 2013 US Open winner, prepared for this week's US Open by winning the Doosan Match Play Championship in Korea this month.

However, she remains mindful of a crowded field of contenders.

The last 12 Majors have been won by 12 different players, highlighting the depth of the women's game.

"Coming into the Major, there's a lot of notable players that haven't won this year and they are looking to win," Park said. "You don't see the same players every week up on the leaderboard. You see some kind of different levels of players, a variety of players on the leaderboard."

American Lexi Thompson is one to watch. The world No. 3's power could give her a crucial edge on a course which has been drenched with more than 50mm of rain.

Due to the wet conditions, she has called for players to be allowed preferred lies - meaning players can lift, clean and place their balls except when in the rough - this week. The prospect of playing without being able to wipe mud off the ball did not sit well with Thompson.

"I played it yesterday and it was pretty wet in some spots and some of the fairways are a little bare in some spots. The rain has not helped that situation... so I think it will be a little unfair if they don't."

US Golf Association senior managing director John Bodenhamer did not rule out preferred lies, but said: "Not every US Open has been played on pristine perfect fairways. That's part of the charm of our game, that there is a randomness."

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

US WOMEN'S OPEN

Day 1: Singtel TV Ch115 & StarHub Ch209, tomorrow, 3am

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 31, 2018, with the headline 'US Open not a walk in the park for No. 1 In Bee'. Print Edition | Subscribe