The U.S. Women’s Open is being played this year at Blackwolf Run in Kohler, Wisconson, and there are a ton of good stories coming out of there.
Right at the top of the list is Cristie Kerr shooting a flawless, 3-under 69 to tie for the lead. Actually, her round wasn’t as flawless as her bogeyless card indicated, but it was flawless in terms of what a player can bring to the moment to achieve another kind of flawless. It’s called fight and determination:
Well, like I said kind of all year, I’ve scored — my finishes haven’t been indicative of how I played at times. My goal is to kind of play like this consistently for the rest of this week and we’ll see where we’re it falls.
Been pretty inconsistent this year. But I’ve found that determination, that fire in my belly today. That said — I hooked it in the hazard my first hole today and made an unbelievable par on 10 getting up-and- down from 135 yards, making a 15‑foot, 20‑foot par putt. That proved to myself I was there.
In a way it was good that happened. I said to myself no, I’m not letting it go this way today. I’m not letting it go this way this week. That’s been the difference in the inconsistency of my game this year. I called it up. I found it. Since last week with five holes to go, even though I missed the cut, I birdied two of the last 5 to make the cut and I found that fire in my belly that I needed. I kind of carried it over to this week.
You never know when the light switch turns on, and I feel like it has.
Wednesday, the great Yani Tseng’s light switch was on dim. She was on the range with her swing coach, Gary Gilchrist, and he wasn’t just standing there going rah, rah. Yani was hitting a mid-iron and they were working on how her right hand was moving into the ball. And at one point, he actually came around behind her and placed his hands on her hips, presumably to help her feel that her hips should be turning and not sliding.
And I thought to myself, this is not good. Here’s a natural feel player who has worked very hard to develop a reliable swing and, as I reported yesterday, she’s not sure whether her ball is going left or right. Worse, instead of just getting reps in to get her feel back, she’s engaged in some very basic, hands-on instruction.
And predictably, she had an up-and-down, 2-over round including a double and triple bogey. But, like Cristie Kerr, the good that came out of it was her unassailable sense of herself as a player:
You know, I played my best today. I only had two bad holes. I had one 6 and one 7. But I hung in there and didn’t give up any shots and I fight to the end and make up a couple birdies on the back. And 2‑over is not far back, and there is lots of golf we will play for the next three days.
So I’m very excited for tomorrow to see I can make more birdies and I feel pretty good with my game right now.
If she could bottle that attitude, she could make way more than the millions she’s making out on Tour.
I also noted that one of this week’s favorites, Stacy Lewis, was also actively engaged with her coach on the range. And it was the same thing with a lot of hands-on coaching, but worse, a look of consternation and worry on her face the entire time the camera was on her. She ended up shooting 5-over with four bogeys on the front and a triple on the back.
Michelle Wie was also 2-over:
You know, it was an interesting round. I definitely made some putts, but I definitely lost some shots out there, but you know, the course is playing good today. Just gotta go out there and hopefully shoot a low number tomorrow, or a red number, I mean and get back into contention.
But what was more interesting was an answer to a question posed by Stephanie Wei writing at Golf.com where she talked about the work she was doing on her putting. It attracted my attention because the advice that Michelle received from Tour veteran and next year’s Solheim Cup captain, Meg Mallon, about putting was all about the principles of transformation:
I’ve been talking a lot with Meg Mallon about it. She says, “This is how you have to look at it — you just have to look at yourself and say you’re a good putter.”
As goofy as that may sound, it really is true. Putting is all confidence. You’ve got to tell yourself you’re a good putter and believe it.
Every time someone asks me, “What’s wrong with your putting?” I think you can kind of take it like, well, what is wrong with my putting? It’s hard to not think about that, but I need to stop thinking about it that way. I know I’m a good putter. I’ve putted really well before and I can do it again.
Brittany Lincicome also shot 3-under and is tied with Cristie Kerr. She made an opening comment in her presser that kind of points to how we just have to take things in without having an opinion about them. In this case, she took one look at the course during a practice round and jumped to an erroneous conclusion:
Coming into this week and playing the practice rounds, you’re out there and you’re like, oh, my gosh, 5, 6, 7-over is going to win this event.
Obviously today shooting 3-under I have to kind of rethink my strategy, and obviously under par is very doable. If you can keep it in the fairway, hit it in the right spot on the green and I made a couple long putts today which was nice.
Teen phenom, Lexi Thompson, had a wonderful 2-under round Thursday to be “just right there.” She had five birdies which proves the lie that there’s a low limit and that you never know what’s possible for the players this week. It’s kind of like, don’t talk yourself into reduced expectations for yourself.
And lest we think this is just some walk in the park, the heat index got to 105 degrees and that presented a whole other level of distractions:
It was extremely hot out there. I had my umbrella pretty much the whole time and a cool towel around my neck. So staying hydrated was really important. I drank water every hole. Pretty much at least one water a hole, if not more.
She also had a chance to work with her coaches, Dave Stockton and Jim McLean, on her putting. And she too affirmed what Michelle Wie discovered with Meg Mallon’s help: putting is very much a mental part of the game:
Yeah. I worked with Dave Stockton and Jim McLean on my putting. Just you know, putting is pretty much all about confidence and just trusting your line and putting a good stroke on it, because you just have to put a good stroke on it. If it doesn’t go in you can’t do anything about it.
Friday should be the last of the beastly heat; the temperatures are expected to drop to around 80 degrees on Saturday. And we’ll get to see just how much a distraction it has been.