Inbee Park continues historic run
How will the golf world respond if Inbee Park wins the Women's British Open in August to become the first professional golfer, man or woman, to win four majors in one year?
Perhaps she should get a ticker-tape parade in New York like the one Bobby Jones received in 1930 after he won the Grand Slam. After a commanding 4-shot victory on Sunday at the U.S. Women's Open, her third consecutive major win on the year and sixth overall in 2013, nothing short of an injury or a miracle performance by one of the other women can keep the 24-year-old South Korean from making history at St. Andrews, Scotland, the home of golf.
Park isn't a flashy champion. There are no histrionics, fist-pumping or playing to the crowds. This woman, who came into this year with just three career wins, is a quiet assassin with a magical putting stroke. She doesn't have a rags-to-riches story or some grave condition that she overcame to be the most dominant athlete in any individual sport in 2013.
The only reason to root for her is that she is having one of the greatest seasons in golf history. Sure, the women's game has never garnered the attention of the men's, but if there was ever a time to get behind women's golf, this is it.
From an American vantage point, it's been difficult to witness the dominance of South Korean women. Park's win at the Sebonack Golf Club marked the fifth time in six years that a South Korean has won the U.S. Women's Open. An American woman has not taken any major since Stacy Lewis won the Kraft Nabisco Championship in 2011.
Imagine the men's game without a major American-born star like Tiger Woods or a figure that could help the U.S.-based PGA Tour connect with a domestic TV audience?
If Tiger were having the success right now of Park, the sport would be exploding with buzz and excitement.
Park played to sparse crowds mostly all week at Sebonack. St. Andrews should be packed this August for her. Because ultimately her success is a triumph not just for the women's game and the LPGA Tour, but for anybody who enjoys watching golf at the highest level.
Bill Haas is quietly having a very nice career in his eighth year on tour. His win Sunday at the AT&T National at Congressional was his fifth career win. The 31-year-old son of nine-time tour winner Jay Haas is easily on pace to surpass his father's win total. But it would be remarkable if he could reach his dad's all-time best total of 592 cuts made on the PGA Tour.
At 50 years old, the elder Haas made the 2004 Ryder Cup team. But a major championship is the one thing that he didn't get on the PGA tour. Bill, who won the 2011 FedEx Cup playoffs, has a good chance to join his great-uncle Bob Goalby, the 1968 Masters champion, as a major winner. Bill has the power and the touch around the greens to win any of the four majors.
But thus far the Wake Forest grad has had an abysmal record in his 15 major appearances with five missed cuts and tie for 12th at the 2011 PGA as his best finish.
Jay Sr. had 16 top-10s, including eight top-5s, in 88 major appearances.
Bill has many majors yet to play in front of him. His 3-shot win over Roberto Castro on Sunday should put him in the right frame of mind for Muirfield and the Open Championship.
On Saturday during the third round of the U.S. Women's Open, Jessica Korda fired her caddie, Jason Gilroyed, halfway through her round and replaced him with her boyfriend, Web.com player, Johnny DelPrete.
The incident told me a couple of things about this 20-year-old one-time LPGA Tour winner and daughter of former Australian Open champion, Peter Korda.
First, she is a strong-willed young woman with the audacity and nerve to fire her caddie of a year in the middle of a major championship and replace him with someone who has never caddied for her.
It's common for caddies to get fired at the end of a tournament week, but they almost always survive the tournament, no matter how bad the chemistry between them and the player. Korda could turn to her boyfriend, but most players aren't prepared to go to friends, family or their agent on a whim to support them on the golf course.
But this kind of drama could happen only in an arrangement where the caddie is empowered to be opinionated with his boss.
There are a few kinds of deals between caddies and players. The most common is for the caddie to give his player yardages, target lines and, if asked, consultation on reading putts and the direction of the wind.
Then there are those players who depend on their caddie for everything from alignment to club selection to reading putts to the near all-powerful habit of stopping their player in the middle of their swings if they believe something is wrong.
Tiger and Phil Mickelson don't look to their caddies for all the answers, but they have throughout their careers made great contributions to the idea of the caddie as an equal partner.
Korda had been on the Sebonack course all week. She knew all of her yardages. She knew the greens, the wind and the daily pin locations. Perhaps in those moments of disagreement with Gilroyed, she should have taken complete responsibility for her game and decisions on the golf course.
In the middle of the U.S. Open, it would not have been wrong for her to tell Gilroyed to shut up and just carry the bag. But it's difficult to do that when you're heavily dependent on feedback from your caddie.
No way should Korda have ever put herself in a situation where she has a dynamic with a caddie that allows for arguments and disagreements. Most players want a very experienced and honest caddie, but they also want a cheerleader who understands his role in what is already a mostly unstable professional relationship that can turn for the worst on a single missed cut or bad club selection.
Last week in Hartford, Bubba Watson had a brief on-course spate with his caddie, Ted Scott, but in the end Watson chalked it up as the cost of doing business in the heat of the battle.
In the end, it's important for Korda to respect caddies as essential partners with the players. She should always consider firing a caddie with great caution. Although it happens all the time, it's not a decision that one should ever take lightly.
Casey tries to reclaim career in Ireland
There was a Paul Casey sighting this week on the European Tour, where he won the Irish Open for his first win since the 2011 Volvo Golf Champions.
The 35-year-old Englishman was once in conversations as one of the true elite in the game. In 2006, he was the European Tour Player of the Year with two wins. Many thought that he would be the Englishman to follow Nick Faldo with major championships. But a couple of injury-plagued years sent him plummeting to 169th in the world rankings from a career-best third.
Perhaps he is now ready to reclaim his place atop the game after his performance this week in Ireland.
Tiger Woods was asked Wednesday during the AT&T National, which he didn't play because of a strained elbow, whether he was struggling mentally.
"No," he answered in his customary brusque and deadpan manner when he doesn't care for the question.
Earlier, he was asked what he thought about Faldo's recent comments that he was struggling mentally on the golf course. For that, all Tiger could offer was that he had won four times on the year.
Still the underlying message from Faldo and everyone closely watching: When is the 14-time major champion going to end his winless streak in the majors?
He can win five more times this year, but he can't adequately answer Faldo's question until he wins another major.