ST. ANDREWS, Scotland — Inbee Park once felt she could walk down the streets of Seoul as the No. 1 player in women’s golf without being recognized.
That was two months ago.
Now she can’t even make it through a toll booth.
The week before she set out to make history at St. Andrews, the 25-year-old Park went home to South Korea to visit family and friends. She was surprised by the number of people who met her at the airport, and who looked her way when she was out in public dressed in regular clothes.
“I was driving by the toll gate and some lady was giving me a toll ticket and she was like, ‘Oh, are you Inbee Park?’ And she was stopping my car,” Park said Tuesday. “So there was a lot of episodes there. It’s cool to be recognized and to have a lot of fans. And I think that really helps me.”
It helps to be on the verge of doing something no other golfer in this Royal & Ancient game has ever achieved.
Slam or not, Park has a shot at something grand.
On an Old Course that even in sunshine is dripping with history, she goes after an unprecedented fourth straight major this year at the Women’s British Open. Park is the heavy favorite at St. Andrews, much like Tiger Woods when he won on the Old Course in 2000 to complete the career Grand Slam.
The gray old town doesn’t have the same energy level as when a claret jug is on offer, though Park’s name is part of every conversation. Woods (2000-01) and Mickey Wright (1961-62) are the only players to have won four straight professional majors, though never in the same calendar year. Woods was the last player to win three straight majors in a single season.