LITTLE ROCK — The start of the fiscal year in state government is an excuse for crunching numbers.
Instead of projecting dollars available for a year-long budget, let’s look at possible accomplishments in sports by an individual and a team.
Twenty-four-year-old Inbee Park of South Korea is 72 holes from recording a first in professional golf — winning four major tournaments in one year. There is every reason to believe she will succeed and, fittingly, No. 4 would be at St. Andrews, the birthplace of the game.
Most importantly, there are probably less than a dozen LPGA players capable of winning a major; on the men’s tour, there might be three times as many.
In addition, she seems to make every meaningful putt, the same way Tiger Woods did when he won six majors in 2005-08. She is No. 82 in driving distance, No. 45 in driving accuracy, No. 15 in greens in regulation, but No. 1 in putting average and putts per greens in regulation. That final category says she hits it close enough to give herself a chance and converts regularly.
Analysts agree that her putting stroke is pure because there is no tension in her arms and shoulders.
"If you were to walk up and grab her putter at address, you could pull it out of her hands because of how loosely she holds it," Suzy Whaley, a teaching pro at TPC River Highlands, said on PGA.com.
Park’s romp in the U.S. Women’s Open last week was her sixth victory of the year in 13 starts and came on the heels of a W at the LPGA stop in Northwest Arkansas.
By all rights, a victory at St. Andrews should complete the Grand Slam, but the LPGA has ordained the Evian Championship in September a fifth major. To me, that dilutes the prestige of the other four.
On the men’s tour, the Players Championship is referred to as the fifth major by the media, but that designation is not official and should not be. When it comes to majors, four will suffice.
By the way, when Park won the Evian Masters last year, she only required 22 putts in the final round.
Risking the wrath of a co-worker, mention of the Pittsburgh Pirates’ success is a must.
When I hollered at him about needing some help, he knew I was looking for insight from a Pittsburgh fan and begged me not to write anything about his team. Based on irrational fears that words written in Little Rock can do in a team 780 miles away, he still blames a column last summer for the demise of the 2012 Pirates.
After 19 consecutive losing seasons, the Pirates were doing so well that team president Frank Coonelly said in mid-August that he was delighted to read MLB’s manual on postseason protocol for the first time. About that time, season ticket holders were mailed information about ordering playoff tickets. Sixteen games over .500 as late as Aug. 8, Pittsburgh finished 79-83.
The Pirates are at it again, teasing their fans by becoming the first MLB team to win 50 games. This time around, there is every reason to believe Pittsburgh will make the 10-team playoff.
Twice during the weekend, one of ESPN’s baseball insiders explained Pittsburgh’s success by saying he had been with the Pirates during spring training and that the players had a chip on their shoulder because of the 2012 collapse.
Maybe so, but "want to" only goes so far. That’s like saying the football teams at Arkansas, Kentucky and Auburn will succeed in the Southeastern Conference this year because they were snubbed in preseason speculation.
Pittsburgh has solid pitching and leads the majors in something called defensive efficiency — converting balls in play into outs. If that continues, our 52-year-old reporter can bury superstitions rooted in his youth.
Harry King is sports columnist for Stephens Media’s Arkansas News Bureau. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.