There may be a culling out process at the U.S. Women’s Open in very short order.
Fearing bad weather for Thursday’s first round at Sebonack Golf Club in Southhampton, New York, the USGA moved a lot of the tees up. Not only did the weather not come up but neither did the winds, remaining relatively calm in the afternoon as they had been for the morning rounds.
Inbee Park, the morning wave leader summed it up. “The USGA was a little generous on us today. A lot of tees were moved up. So instead of hitting like 5‑irons, we were hitting 9‑irons, and that was making the course much easier. I was actually able to go for some pins and give myself a lot of opportunities today. Yeah, I made a lot of putts and didn’t leave much out there.”
So she rolled in with a 5-under 67 that held up all day long until her Korean countrywoman, Ha-Neul Kim, posted a 6-under 66 late in the day. A 7-time winner on the Korean LPGA Tour and playing in her first U.S. Open, she was a little shocked. “This was my first time in the U.S. Open and I didn’t think that I was going to do it like this.”
Other players at the top of the leaderboard:
4-under: The solid Swedish duo of Caroline Hedwall and Anna Nordqvist, I.K. Kim, who feasted on the middle of the course with six birdies and Lizette Salas, who learned a lot in her playoff loss to Suzann Pettersen in Hawaii and also made six birdies.
3-under: Maude-Aimee LeBlanc, the long-hitting Canadian who wants to know when they’re going to move the tees back and Chilean, Paz Echeverria, a Symetra Tour alum in her rookie year.
2-under: Eight players including the resurgent Natalie Gulbis, 2nd year player who won in her rookie year, Jessica Korda and veteran Catriona Matthews.
1-under: Eleven players including big names, Na Yeon Choi, Stacy Lewis and Shanshan Feng.
Even par: Nine players including big names, Ryann O’Toole, amateur phenom, Lydia Ko, Brittany Lincicome, Julie Inkster, Paula Creamer and Christie Kerr.
All of these players are very much still in the tournament, particularly when the 6-under comes from an inexperienced player. If the morning showers and the 50% chance of afternoon scattered thunderstorms and accompanying 15 to 25 mph winds materialize, The Great Unknown throws its shroud over the festivities and then who knows?
Will the USGA move the tees back or leave their precaution in place? We don’t know and they didn’t comment in the media center.
Whatever happens, there are handfuls of players further down the leaderboard, very disappointed with their oh, so hopeful first rounds who now go into scheming mode. That can be helpful if the scheming is centered and within their capabilities, but pressing at the first sign of problems all too frequently doesn’t work out.
The good news is that there’s a panoply of big name, experienced players willing and able to take a chance. In their case, take a chance by waiting out their talent to come to the fore. That takes confidence, patience and knowing.
Finally, there was one snippet from Inbee Park on putting well that was so terrific that it had to be in here and this turns out to be the best spot.
She’s so good, does she expect everything to go in? That was the question that prompted this, “You know, it comes down to some days I can really concentrate well, and a lot of putts go in that day, and sometimes I have trouble concentrating somehow and I miss quite a bit of putts that day. I think it’s just really — it all comes down to the focusing and concentrating.”
So those of you tinkering your way back to good putting with stroke or putter changes, you might want to hold up on that for now. Working on being intensely present could be a lot cheaper and take a lot less time.