A Real Test

We have just about every kind of distraction we could have at this year’s U.S. Women’s Open at the Broadmoor in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

With chronic afternoon thunderstorms and lightning, the first two rounds were a start-and-stop hodgepodge that didn’t finish until this evening. They finally got the field down to 72, re-paired everybody and then had the field begin warming up to get a jump on the third round.

And then the horn sounded. So they waited a while and were able to get it cranked back up and get some groups off. The two lead groups only finished three holes. Because they were playing in threesomes and going off the 1st and 10th tees, they managed to get 7 of the 24 groups on the course. The last group that got off was the 3:48 pairing.

And then the horn sounded again. And they waited two hours before they finally called it for the night. But of those 21 players that got off, 2 were unable to beat the horn and had to mark their balls in place on the hole they were playing.

And so, the festivities begin again at 6:45 tomorrow morning. Think about that for a minute: drag yourself back to the hotel, get a decent dinner and try to get as much sleep as you can given all of the emotional ups and downs of the day. Not emotional as in laughing and crying, but emotional as in getting yourself up on the edge of awareness only to have to let yourself down again…and then get yourself back up again…and then being in the question for two hours, “Are we playing or calling it?”…and then letting yourself back down again.

Get yourself up at 4:00 AM, get dressed, get to the course to get some breakfast and then get to the range soon enough so that you can (a.) find a space to hit balls and (b.) wake your body up so that it feels like the middle of the afternoon, not the middle of the dawn.

And, oh by the way, Meena Lee got it to 2-under on the round through those three holes going off the front nine. So that’s a marker for what’s possible. Given what she did, how deep could someone go? But wait, that was this afternoon; will conditions be the same at 6:45 in the morning? There could be heavier air in the morning. Who knows?

So will they get all 36 holes in tomorrow? How many times will the horn sound? At that latitude you can play until around 9 PM they said on television. If the horn sounds, will they be able to get back out and finish? Or will it spill over into Monday? This is the U.S. Open, they’re not going to call it after just 54 holes.

And this year they have decided that there won’t be an 18-hole playoff as is the tradition, it’s only going to be a 3-hole playoff. With the field bunched so tightly as is the norm at U.S. Opens (except for Rory McIlroy’s blowout), there’s a high probability of a playoff. Will they be able to get that in before dark too?

And the course is just so unyielding. The leader Mika Miyazato is only at 5-under and the only one to have shot 4-under, which she did today. Her countrywoman, Ai Miyazato, is at 4-under, I.K. Kim is at 3-under and Stacy Lewis and Ryann O’Toole are at 1-under. Defending champion Paula Creamer is at even par.

But it’s so early. Normally the sprint to the finish is the last nine holes on Sunday. But they’re playing 36 on Sunday. So when do you start the sprint when, even though it’s Sunday, the finish line is still half a tournament away?

But all that detail, all those thoughts, are just peripheral to what’s really required. The only things that matter to playing the game are the target, the ball, the club and the body and whether you can stay focused on them on each shot. All the rest is procedural administrivia that’s the same for everyone and there’s only one thing to do about it: just deal with it. When something comes up, just let it pass on by. Over and over again.

That’s why this championship will be golf’s version of The Survivor and it should make fascinating viewing for those of us who understand that all this other stuff is going on. It’s not just about hitting golf shots, but for the winner it will be.

ESPN2 will begin the broadcast at 9:00 AM ET and NBC will pick up the finish at 3:00 PM ET.

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