U.S. Women’s Open Championship
Pinehurst Resort & Country Club, Pinehurst No. 2
Village of Pinehurst, N.C.
June 19, 2014
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Rolex Rankings No. 1 Stacy Lewis (-3)
Rolex Rankings No. 11 Michelle Wie (-2)
Rolex Rankings No. 5 Karrie Webb (E)
Rolex Rankings No. 13 Paula Creamer (E)
Rolex Rankings No. 2 Inbee Park (+6)
Amateur Lucy Li (+8)
Rolex Rankings No. 1 Stacy Lewis came into this week rolling on a wave of confidence and poise and ready to take on the challenge of Pinehurst No. 2 at the U.S. Women’s Open. She handled the Donald Ross track flawlessly on Thursday and finished with a bogey-free 67 to take a one-shot lead over fellow American Michelle Wie (68). Play was suspended at 7:12 p.m. due to dangerous weather conditions in the area and was officially called at 7:55 p.m. Thirty players have yet to finish the first round and will resume play at 6:45 a.m. on Friday.
Lewis only missed one green and one fairway in the first round and surprised everyone by calling her day ‘easy.’
“I’m very happy,” said Lewis. “It was such an easy day. I played really, really solid, other than I had to make a few par putts, I ran some putts by, got them above the hole. But other than that I didn’t put myself in too bad of spots and made a few birdies, which was nice.”
Lewis started on the back nine and picked up her first two birdies on the par 4’s 14th and 16th holes. Lewis, like many of her female counterparts, watched the men’s event last week and drew inspiration from this year’s champ, Martin Kaymer.
“I liked watching the men’s last week because I think I played a lot -- I like to hit a cut a lot like Kaymer does,” said Lewis. “So on a lot of those holes, it was cool to see the plan I had laid out in my head, he was kind of doing the same thing. So it was nice coming into the week, knowing that my plan was going to work on this golf course.”
Lewis carded her third and final birdie on No. 8 and posted the low round of the day early, before temperatures start soaring with a heat index past 100 degrees.
“I thought that somebody like the guys, somebody can run away with this,” said Lewis. “If you’re hitting the ball well enough, you can definitely run away with it. At the same time you have to know par is a good number and keep grinding away.”
Michelle Wie trails Lewis by one shot after a round that included five birdies and three bogeys. The Hawaii native had only 26 putts in her round of 68.
“You know, I’ll take it, any round under par, I’ll take it,” said Wie. “It was a grind out there today. It will probably be a grind the next three days, but I’ll take it.”
Three players are in a tie for third at 1-under par including two Australians, Katherine Kirk and amateur Minjee Lee, and 2011 U.S. Women’s Open champ So Yeon Ryu of South Korea.
Defending champion and No. 2 Inbee Park struggled on Thursday with a 6-over 76 and sits in a pack alongside No. 3 Lydia Ko, 2008 champ Cristie Kerr and World Golf and LPGA Halls of Famer Se Ri Pak.
Eleven-year-old phenom Lucy Li finished with an 8-over 78 and is in a tie for 111th with a group that includes two-time major champ Suzann Pettersen and winner of this year’s Kingsmill Championship Lizette Salas.
Stacy Lewis made it no secret early on in the week how badly she wants to win her own national championship. The two-time major winner opened with a bogey-free 67 on Thursday and reiterated how important it is to her to perform well at the LPGA’s majors.
“I think everything I’m doing is geared towards majors in general,” said Lewis. “I think to win majors you have to have control of the ball, you have to putt great, and you have to have control of your emotions.”
The ultra-competitive Lewis has been known for her firey emotions on the course and said channeling her reactions has now been made a priority and something she knows she needs to do in order to contend in golf’s biggest events.
“The last one, that’s been the kicker for me the last few years, is control of my emotions,” said Lewis. “So that’s something that has moved at the top of the list for me this year. That, you know, if I do anything, I’m going to control that. And I did a really good job of that today.”
Lewis, who now has 10 LPGA Tour victories in her six years as a member, is now trying to figure out how to leave her legacy. Only 29 years old, The Woodlands, Texas native said the demands of majors suit her well.
“Once you get 1-under your belt, it’s contagious, you just want to win more and more,” said Lewis. “And a lot of times you’re announced on a tee or introduced as how many Solheim Cups you’ve played on and how many majors you’ve won. Winning all of them is something I’d like to do some time down the road. I just have geared my game towards Majors. I love it when it’s hard. I love it when you have to grind. I love it when you have to make to 8 and 10-footers for par. It suits me and my game.”
In additions to her two major wins, Lewis has consistently showed up on the major stage. She has recorded seven additional top-10 finishes. Below are her finishes at each of the LPGA’s five major championships.
|U.S. Women’s Open||Kraft Nabisco Championship||Wegmans LPGA Championship|
|RICOH Women’s British Open||The Evian Championship|
HIT THE BOOKS
Michelle Wie channeled her inner nerd this week by hitting the books in preparation for this week’s U.S. Women’s Open. Yardage books that is. The Stanford grad said the extra studying of books handed over to her by male counterparts, Rickie Fowler and Keegan Bradley, helped her get off to a strong start on No. 2.
“Oh, yeah, they were big helps,” said Wie. “They put some really good notes in for me. I did a lot of homework. I think it’s the most homework I’ve ever done on a golf course. Just kind of color coordinated everything. Just took the notes from both of the books. It really helped just because, obviously, they played last week in similar conditions. And they’re, obviously, great players. I definitely learned a lot from looking at those yardage books just seeing what they do. And I definitely learned a thing or two.”
Wie’s round of 68 on Thursday marked her lowest opening round at a U.S. Women’s Open in her 13 career starts. She has particularly struggled as of late in the early rounds and failed to break 80 in four out of her last six opening rounds. Wie has come into form this season and is playing for win No. 2 in addition to her win in Hawaii but still searching for that major championship. Asked if she thinks she’s ready for a major win, Wie said her status on Sunday hasn’t even come close to being on her mind yet.
“I don’t want to think about that. It’s a long road until Sunday. I’ve had a lot of fun today, it’s great being in contention. I’m going to do my best tomorrow and see what happens. If I keep doing what I’m doing now, I’ll be close, and hopefully I’ll be there Sunday having an opportunity, and that’s really all I can ask for.”
FEELS LIKE HOME?
A number of players have compared the new look of Pinehurst No. 2 to many of the golf courses in the Sandbelt area around Melbourne, Australia. So perhaps it’s no surprise that three players in the top 10 after the first day of play at the U.S. Women’s Open are Australian.
Katherine Kirk and top-ranked amateur Minjee Lee sit in a tie for second after shooting 1-under 69 while LPGA and World Golf Halls of Fame member Karrie Webb sits one shot back at even-par.
“I loved it as soon as I was here,” said Webb, who opened with a 70 which ties her second lowest first-round score at the U.S. Women’s Open. “It does really remind me of Sandbelt golf in Melbourne, where you don’t always have a perfect lie, even in the fairway. And you have to be creative around the greens. And that’s definitely a recipe to play well in Melbourne and it is here, as well.”
TURNING IT AROUND
When Paula Creamer made the turn in the first round of the U.S. Women’s Open on Thursday afternoon, she sat at 2-over-par and looked to be heading in the wrong direction on the leaderboard following a bogey on the par-4 18th – her ninth hole.
But then the Pleasanton, Calif. native found her stride and after failing to record a birdie in her first 10 holes, she tallied birdies in three of her next four holes and finished the day with an even-par 70.
“It was really hard, actually,” Creamer said of her slow start. “Just coming out and you’re teeing off on 10, reachable par-5, you’ve got to hit it in the right spot and all this. I missed about a five and a half, almost 6-footer for birdie. It took a while, a couple of groups late, had to just really settle down. And my caddie, Colin and I, just figured out, as the day went on, I got more and more comfortable, kind of found my iron swing and was able to be a little bit more precise. It’s easy to play scared out here, and that’s just not my game. But it’s very easy to go that way. And that’s, I think, one of the hardest parts about this golf course.”
Earlier in the week, Creamer said that Pinehurst No. 2 reminded her a lot of Oakmont Country Club – the site of the 2010 U.S. Women’s Open where she recorded her first major championship victory. Many have described Oakmont as one of the toughest tests that the women have ever faced so it’s no surprise that Creamer is embracing the challenge that Pinehurst brings.
While there were moments when things didn’t work out perfectly for her on Thursday, including a bogey on the par-3 ninth that dropped her to even par for the day, Creamer seemed ready to go back and tackle this golf course again in Friday’s morning wave.
“It’s nice that you have a quick turnaround,” Creamer said. “ It’s hard because you have a quick turnaround, but it’s also good because I’m feeling really good, I’m in a good place, and come right out and hopefully pick up and have a good couple of starts, first couple of holes, until I can give myself some good birdie looks.”
The largest crowd on the golf course Thursday morning was likely the one following 11-year-old Lucy Li. There was a lot of anticipation to see how Li, the youngest qualifier in U.S. Women’s Open history, would fare in her first round. And Li didn’t disappoint, shooting an 8-over 78 to put her in a tie for 111th.
“I’m happy I broke 80, because I got two doubles and a triple and that can really ruin a score,” Li said after her round. “But I’m glad I got it back after that.”
Li has quickly endeared herself to the media and golf fans around the globe this week, thanks in large part to her laugh and the small reminders that she is indeed 11. One of those moments came when Li brought a Starburst Strawberry Sorbet bar with her to the stage as she conducted her post-round interview.
The Redwood Shores, Calif. native didn’t seem too concerned about the mistakes that came in her round on Thursday. She instead seemed focused on enjoying the entire experience. When asked how she would be spending the rest of the day, Li was clear in her answer.
“Eat some more ice cream,” she said with a laugh.
DEFENDING CHAMP STRUGGLES
Inbee Park will have plenty of work ahead of her if she plans on defending her title this week in Pinehurst. The 2013 Rolex Player of the Year did not do herself any favors in her opening round of 76 on Thursday. The score ties her worst round of the year so far; she shot 76 in the second round of the Airbus LPGA Classic where she missed the cut.
She’s currently in a tie for 77th and nine shots off the lead. Park had two double bogeys and four bogeys to go with two birdies on the day. The 10-time LPGA Tour winner said she realized how quickly things can fall out of reach at this course.
“I think it’s probably beyond disappointment,” said park. “Like today just -- it was so quick and I just don’t know what happened. I was just really shocked how the golf course was playing and how -- I didn’t feel like I played horrible, but the score is bad. So it’s so easy to make a lot of big numbers here.”
The last defending champion to miss the cut was Birdie Kim in 2006. Park said she will have a new approach for the second round on Friday.
“I think my plan has definitely changed,” said Park. “My plan will be making less bogeys tomorrow and trying to just stay out of the trouble. Not so much about the trophy now anymore, just trying to keep it into play.”
THE SOCIAL SCENE
Golf Digest’s Instagram account captured the essence that is Lucy Li this week. Li brought a Starburst ice cream pop to the media podium after her round.