Posted: July 12, 2015 11:48 pm
Stacy Lewis suggested Saturday that if windmills were placed on a couple of hole locations at this U.S. Women’s Open, “it would be perfect.”
The runner-up heading into Sunday’s championship round at Lancaster Country Club was only half-kidding.
There were hole locations where the ball didn’t roll out as expected, Lewis said, and there were others where the ball rolled out way more than expected.
“There are,” she stated, “a couple of bad (holes).”
But if Saturday was bad, Sunday’s final round — at first glance — looked beastly. Not Ben Hogan-brings-the-Monster-to-its-knees beastly, but a tough test all the same.
It wasn’t just hole locations and greens, though the latter were offering a lot more roll, according to Inbee Park.
Morgan Pressel thought the greens had some “pretty severe slopes” along with “really traditional, long rough.”
Longer, So Yeon Ryu believed, than it had been. And Amy Yang, who landed in the rough on 18 for a bogey that cost her a playoff and possibly the title, thought the rough “sticky.”
There was more. Lexi Thompson spoke Saturday of having to play away from some of the pins “because they’re tucked.”
Sunday, they were tucked tighter than Jeggings on a hippo. Holes 2, 4, 5, 6, 7, 12, 13, 14, 16 and 17 were so tightly placed they left little margin for error. Jane Park thought the pin placements “difficult … a lot of breaking putts.”
It all made for some early drama, promising a day where the course would bare its teeth and bite back after surrendering to Sunday’s competitors a combined 76 rounds of scores at or below par Thursday through Saturday.
Emma Talley, in the fourth group off the tee Sunday morning, was one of the first finishers and was 5-over for the round.
“It could have been a lot worse,” she said.
Her story was a familiar one. Of the first 45 finishers, 29 were over par and six were even.
But two other early finishers, Elizabeth Nagel and Alison Lee, told a different tale.
Lee was 4-under with five birdies, one coming on the 16th, a short dogleg-left that provides several options. The course description states that the par-4, 357-yard 16th provides the last, good chance for a birdie, provided one avoids the array of bunkers inside the dogleg.
“Definitely a birdie hole,” said Lee.
It was even more of a birdie hole Sunday after the USGA moved tee boxes up by some 110 yards. The move was made to entice contenders late in the back nine to gamble with their score in the closing rounds of a major.
The stunningly short yardage to the hole offered a test of skill and strategy, requiring golfers to take time to really consider which club they would choose.
“It is tricky trying to pick your club because I was in between driver and my 3-wood,” said Lee. “It’s risk-reward on that hole.”
The USGA acknowledged it moved the tees up to provide “great entertainment” in the closing rounds.
Ryu said the move left her praying “to the gods.” Nagel stated if she was a spectator, No. 16 is where she would have spent Sunday.
“I think that’s going to be a game-changer coming down the stretch,” she said. “I can see people making bogeys, making birdies, making eagles.
“I think it will be really good TV.”
Muni He, 3 over Sunday, agreed that the course alterations promised late-day theater.
“A lot of tough pin placements, a lot of very tilted hole locations and a lot of tee boxes have moved, so (there are) a lot shorter holes that they are going to be able to play a lot more aggressively,” she said. “It’s sure going to be really fun to watch.”
Brittany Lang, 2 under for the day, applauded the USGA’s moves.
“I love how they set the holes up different,” she said. “It’s fun to have a drivable hole like that. I think coming down the stretch with Amy Yang and Stacy, that could be a big turner right there.”
As it turned out, Yang eagled 16 and Lewis birdied it. In Gee Chun and Inbee Park also gained ground on 16, allowing them to finish first and tied for third, respectively.
The drama and theatre the USGA hoped for were realized in those final, furious rounds.
“A true Open,” said Pressel. “A tough test of golf.”