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Inbee Park on verge of golfing immortality

By Colin Hancock, CNN, at St Andrews
updated 1:26 PM EDT, Wed July 31, 2013
Inbee Park can make golfing history if she was to win the British Open title on Sunday
Inbee Park can make golfing history if she was to win the British Open title on Sunday
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Inbee Park can make golfing history should she win the British Open at St Andrews
  • South Korean can complete grand slam of four major titles if she succeeds in Scotland
  • Bobby Jones is the only player in the history of the game to have won four majors in a year
  • Park says she is happy the focus has been less than if she was a male player

(CNN) -- On May 31st 1930, on this very course, Bobby Jones won the British Amateur.

As thousands of fans flocked towards him in the aftermath of his victory, little did they realize they'd just witnessed the first leg of what was then termed the 'Improbable Quadrilateral.'

Never mind improbable, it was considered pretty much impossible, inconceivable, that one man could win all four majors in a year, but by September Jones had completed what is now known as the 'Grand Slam' of golf.

No-one, not Hogan, not Nicklaus, not Woods, nor Sorenstam, Ochoa or Tseng, has ever matched that achievement in the 83 years that have followed.

Read: Park sets sights on 'grand slam

But on Thursday morning, a woman from South Korea steps onto the same Old Course at St Andrews with a chance to rewrite that particular line of golfing history.

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Inbee Park arrived in Scotland as the winner of all three majors played so far this year, in itself a staggering achievement.

As she set off for her final practice round on Wednesday, we were among a traveling caravan of video and stills photographers, most from Asia, eager to capture her image on the verge of immortality at the home of golf.

And yet it is impossible to escape the feeling that were this a male player on the verge of joining the game's most exclusive club, the swell of interest would be significantly, demonstrably, higher.

"Men's golf.... is bigger than women's golf -- that's just the way it is. I can't change the world," Park told CNN World Sport.

"I think I'm getting a lot of attention. If I got more attention I think it would be too much for me: it's tough to handle that kind of pressure."

That doesn't mean Park hasn't allowed herself to entertain the thought that she could emulate Jones' feat.

Tiger Woods won four in a row across 2000 and 2001: Hogan won three in 1953 and was unable to compete in the PGA; in 1950, "Babe" Zaharias had won all three existing majors in the women's game.

But no-one since Jones has won four majors in a single year.

On completion of his landmark, mentally and physically exhausted, the 28-year-old declared he just didn't know when he'd be playing again. Effectively he left the competitive game.

Men's golf is bigger than women's golf -- that's just the way it is. I can't change the world
Inbee Park

Park won't be following suit, even if her profile goes through the roof should she be the one clutching the British Open trophy come Sunday night.

"It'd be something so big, thinking about my name being in the history of golf, even after I die, is just amazing, especially in St Andrews on the Old Course, it's going to be even more special," she added.

She revealed that among those sending her good luck messages have been the President of South Korea and a certain Arnold Palmer.

"I feel like I'm just so lucky to have this kind of experience at this kind of golf course. It's something I never really dreamed of, not this big.

"I feel very honoured to have this kind of experience, and even if I don't win this week I'll always remember this moment and I'll always remember St Andrews' Old Course."

Inbee's keen not to seem too eager for the prize, and is understandably trying to take some pressure off herself.

"If I try to push myself to do it this week, I think that's being greedy, but if I wait and just be patient and have the trophy come to me, that'd be great," she explained.

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"Sometimes you have bad weeks and sometimes you have good weeks. If I have a good week here that'd be great, but if not, it's ok."

South Koreans have been the major force in the women's game for the past 15 years, since Se Ri Pak won two majors in her rookie 1998 season, and again this week players from Asia dominate the field.

"I think people are just so interested in golf and they have a big passion for golf, because their personality is so strong and they really want to be good," suggests Park.

"Their parents' support is so big. But the one real factor is that they love golf."

At three minutes past seven on Thursday morning Park will stand on the first tee of the Old Course, where Bobby Jones stood just over 83 years ago.

The odds against her are significant. The field is packed with former major winners. But were she to do it, it would be one of the most incredible achievements in sporting history.

And then, in a strange postscript, Park would have the chance to go one better.

This year, the women's game has a new fifth major, the Evian, taking place in September. Park won the 2012 installment and is among the front runners once again. Now that really would be greedy.

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