The last U.S. woman to win a major golf championship was Stacy Lewis, who finished on top in the 2011 Kraft Nabisco Championship.
The next 10 LPGA majors have been won by Asian-born players, the last three by South Korea’s Inbee Park. Those three wins, the most recent of which came in Sunday’s U.S. Women’s Open, have put Park in an extraordinary place. Winning four majors in a year constitutes golf’s so-called Grand Slam. It has long been thus. If Park wins the Women’s British Open at St. Andrews during the first week in August, she will have accomplished said slam. But this year the LPGA Tour includes a fifth tournament designated as a major. That’s the Evian Championship in September. If Park wins both the British and the Evian Championship, will she have bagged the Slam-plus-one? The Grander Slam? The Grandest Slam of all Slams ever thought up by golf publicists?
For years there has been speculation about why the South Korean women have been so successful on the LPGA Tour. They practice harder and more. They have all been inspired by the heroics of Se Ri Pak, who won the U.S. Open as a rookie in 1998. Some think the Koreans possess a mysterious physiological trait that better suits them for golf, just as some think Kenyans have a similar genetic leg up on long-distance runners from elsewhere. Korean mothers push their daughters harder than U.S. mothers push their daughters. Or their fathers do. Or there’s something good in the water there. Or something bad in the water here.
These theories have surfaced because seven of the top 10 LPGA golfers are Asian, and four of them are South Korean. Of the top 100 women, 35 are Korean.
But I digress. The point here is that during this golf season, Inbee Park has left even her country women in the dust, or in the rough, or out of bounds, or wherever it is that golfers who don’t win majors get left. Nobody has ever won four majors, and this year, Inbee Park could win five.
I suppose it can be argued that because the LPGA’s sponsors come and go, and because there are eight tournaments that either are or once were designated majors on the women’s tour, the whole concept of an LPGA major is more than a little uncertain. A naysayer might almost call the designation arbitrary. But all Inbee Park can do is conquer the golf world as she has found it, and she seems poised on the brink of doing that more convincingly than any previous golfer.