PINEHURST, N.C. – As many of the top female golfers in the world continued their preparation for the 2014 U.S. Women’s Open during the first official day of practice rounds at Pinehurst Resort and Country Club on Tuesday, Course No. 2’s condition got positive reviews.
After the build-up that preceded the 2014 U.S. Open that Martin Kaymer dominated from start to finish on a restored Donald Ross classic layout, many wondered if it would be fit for the women to play on after the men had their run on it.
The overwhelming verdict was that there were no issues – none.
“There were no divots, “ Michelle Wie said.
“The greens were in perfect shape. The greens don’t look browned out at all. I think the USGA wants the fairway to be browned out. I think that was not a mistake, I think that was a lack of water. I think they want the golf course to look brown and I think it looks very cool brown. I think it would look really weird if it was lush and green. But I was surprised yesterday, there are no divots really anywhere near the green. The practice range looks fantastic. I think the practice facility here is large enough that it can hold two fields. So, yeah, I was very pleasantly surprised.”
Wie, who’s playing in her 11th U.S. Women’s Open, looked forward to the challenge that No. 2 will bring.
“Yeah, it’s definitely different,” Wie continued.
“You’re used to four-inch rough and you kind of are mentally preparing yourself for that. But the native, it’s very interesting. You can get lucky, you can get very unlucky. Sometimes it looks easier than it actually is. Sometimes it looks harder than it actually is. It’s going to be very interesting. It looks very cool. The golf course looks awesome.”
With her best career finish in the USGA championship being a tie for third in 2006 at Newport Country Club, another Donald Ross layout, Wie is currently riding a productive 2014 wave with eight top-10 finishes in 12 starts and sits 11th in the Rolex World Rankings
After winning the LPGA Lotte Championship, she finished as a runner-up to Lexi Thompson at the Kraft Nabisco Championship.
Thompson, No. 6 in the World Rankings, will start in her eighth U.S. Women’s Open and holds three top-15 finishes including a tie for 10th in 2010 at Oakmont, pointed out some of the trouble she found while playing No. 2 on Monday.
“Yeah, I hit about three or four shots out of the native area yesterday and I seemed to get a shot every time,” Thompson said.
“But there are some knots of grass that you can get stuck behind. It’s a matter of luck I guess whether or not you get stuck behind one of those knots, but you can definitely get shots if you don’t.
Even while finding the trouble spots, her assessment of the layout was as glowing as Wie’s.
“The conditions on the golf course are great,” she said.
“At this golf course, it’s pretty firm, so there’s not many divots or anything, I’m barely taking divots here. As you saw at Kraft, I take massive divots. But it’s playing firm, the greens are fast, but they’re in great shape. I’m really looking forward to playing. I’m sure it will get firmer as the week goes on.”
Sitting in the top spot of the Rolex World Rankings, Stacy Lewis had taken a more detailed assessment of the course.
“It’s a lot better than I thought it was going to be,” Lewis said.
“I can tell you that. When I came here, I came here three weeks ago and played and once I saw the golf course, I knew that. I became more comfortable with this whole idea and knew that it wouldn’t be as bad. The worst parts – there’s some divots – there’s a lot of divots on 1 and 10 in the lay-up spot. But then other than that, we’re not hitting where the guys hit from in the fairways, so all that is okay. The worst part is just those collection areas around the greens, which we all knew it was going to be, so you just kind of have to figure out how to hit those shots.”
In addition to repairing a few spots, Lewis was more interested in how the USGA would set the course up.
She had already taken into account many possibilities.
”Yeah, there’s definitely a few holes where you have to kind of position yourself,” Lewis said.
“A lot of it obviously depends on where they put the tees. You look at 7 – you could hit from the back tee – if it’s into the wind – you could hit driver. They move the tee up a little bit – you could hit 3-wood or hybrid. If they move the tee up even more, I would probably not be going for the green, but probably just hit an iron down there and have 8- or 9-iron into the green. So it’s really, for me, it’s hitting it to the fattest part of the fairway and that’s kind of what it comes down to. I think if you’re in the fairway, you’re going to be in a good spot at the end of the week. So I like thinking my way around, I like that the USGA moves tees around. It makes you think instead of just getting up there on the same hole every day.”
Like Thompson, Lewis will also be making her eighth start in a U.S. Open, trying to stay on top of the World Rankings and besting a previous finish of a tie for third in 2008 at Interlachen.
With two Majors to her credit, the 2011 Kraft Nabisco Championship and the 2013 Women’s British Open, Lewis will stay focused on continuing a season that includes 11 top-10 finishes in 13 tournaments played so far.
She understands that the task at hand will not be an easy one particularly considering the predicted weather conditions that may result in No. 2 baring some ugly teeth to the 156-player field.
“I think the golf course is going to play hard,” Lewis said.
“I don’t know if we shoot the numbers that those guys were shooting last week. They were hitting some pretty short clubs into 18 and from the back tee we’re hitting 4 and 5-irons, and probably even some hybrids and 3-woods from other girls. So there’s just certain holes that are going to play harder for us. And I just – I don’t know – I just don’t see the scores going too low. I think with the heat, the fairways are going to start to run out. Those doglegs become a little bit harder to hold into, so I just see the golf course getting harder as the week goes on.”