Mike Trostel interviews Jane Park after she finished her second round of the U.S. Women's Open at Lancaster Country Club Friday.

Mike Gross: Yes, short hitters have a shot this week

Posted: July 10, 2015 10:13 pm

At Pinehurst Country Club last year, the USGA held a grand experiment by conducting the men’s and women’s U.S. Opens back-to-back at the same venue.

Further, they paid players and caddies for information — what clubs were hit off tees and into greens, how balls reacted on greens and fairways, how much bounce, how much roll, etc.
A collection of 72,000 data points yielded a clear conclusion.

“What we learned,” USGA Executive Director Mike Davis said Thursday, is that if you set up the golf course the same (for both genders), the scoring is almost identical.”

By “the same,” Davis means different — setting up a course so that men and women hit roughly the same clubs into greens and have comparable driving areas. In order words, so that it plays the same for both.

More on that story, including a preponderance of the evidence from the first two days of the U.S. Women’s Open: These folks can really, really play golf.

The men hit it much farther. They probably have better control of distance and trajectory, especially on shots of, say, 175 yards or more.

But the women hit it much straighter and “the farther your ball goes, the farther it goes … in another direction.”

That bit of wisdom comes from Muni He, age 15, of California by way of Chengdu, in southcentral China, which, we’re told, is where all the pandas are.

He is already committed to Southern Cal with two years of high school remaining. She has a pure, athletic swing and a lean, lithe body.

She’s also roughly five-foot-nothing, and appears to weigh as much as a headcover, although she claims 115 pounds, She admitted Friday she can’t reach the par-4 18th hole in two shots.

On a number of the other par-4s, she said, “I have to hit my 3-wood or 5-wood.”

He shot 68 Thursday. She’s at 2-over 142 through two rounds, easily inside the cut line.

“Girls tend to be a little more consistent,” He said.

They also seem — maybe I’m reaching here — to be in touch, in temperament and approach to their work, with golf’s essence: You get a number at the end of the day. That number isn’t impressed with you. It can’t be argued with. It’s the only thing that matters.

The shortest driver in the field this week has been Jane Park, at 215 yards per drive.

Park said Friday she really hits it farther than 215, but that on this course, many of her drives seem to land in upslopes or “just stop, right beside their ball-marks.”

Yes, her drivers are making ball-marks.

She couldn’t reach nine, a par-4, in two Friday (“I know it was a bogey, but I did my best,” she said.). Park did reach the long 18th, but it was for the first time all week.

Especially if you don’t play golf, it’s hard to convey how much of a disadvantage this is.
Rory McIlroy hits a 6-iron 215 yards. Imagine how McIlroy would tackle Lancaster Country Club if you took every club out of his bag longer than 6-iron.

“But I’m hitting it on a string right now, which helps,” Park said.

It must. She’s at 66-72-138, two under par.

After a distinguished junior and amateur career, Park has never won as a pro. She had to qualify to get here. Because of Thursday’s savage thunderstorm, she had to get up way early Friday to play the final five holes of her first round.

“Good way to start the day,” she said. “Beautiful course in the morning. It’s absolutely gorgeous.”

You are not going to drag her down.

Park is known for her sense of humor, a quality that can be tested by missing a 20-inch putt, as Park did Friday for a par at the par-5 seventh.

“I’ve already forgotten about it,” she said. “I actually wasn’t even thinking about it until someone asked me after my round. You’ve just got to let those go.”

Tangibly, I don’t know how they do it. Part of the explanation is an intangible, a remarkable, matter-of-fact way of simply getting on with it.

Who was that goofball who implied that short hitters have no shot this week?

Oh, right.