Colorado Springs, Colo. – Cristie Kerr prepared to make a celebratory fist pump as her 7-foot birdie putt rolled toward the hole on the par-4 18th green. In an instant, her grin turned to a grimace as the ball caught the hole’s right edge and spun out.
If Kerr could take any solace, it would be that the hole has allowed just 17 birdies through two rounds and is easily the most difficult on The Broadmoor’s East Course.
In the pre-championship discussion for the 66th U.S. Women’s Open, a lot of attention was given to hole Nos. 10-15, which feature five par-4s of no less than 413 yards. The par-4s have ranked as the fourth (10th hole), third (No. 11), second (No. 13), seventh (No. 14) and fifth (No. 15) most difficult holes, respectively.
“They're just long par-4s,” said first-round leader Stacy Lewis. “I mean, a lot of them are pretty similar. They kind of run together for me. But long par-4s; I think they're all over 400 yards and tricky greens.”
The slight dogleg-right 18th, however, is the beast. The hole has played to a stroke average of 4.564, more than a half-stroke higher than par and nearly .14 of a stroke higher than No. 13. For the record, there have been 139 pars, along with 123 bogeys and 33 double bogeys or higher. One golfer made a 9 on the hole in the second round.
Players’ reactions to the 18th hole vary. Some think that placement off the tee is critical and others think it is the slight uphill approach over water to a Donald Ross-designed green that features a ridge that can funnel balls toward the green’s center or off the front of the green.
“I think it's everything,” said Michelle Wie in her analysis of the hole, which she birdied on Saturday from 35 feet to slide in under the cut line of seven over par. “It's hard to hit the right part of the green, and kind of hard to get yourself a flat putt on that hole, which I think makes it difficult.”
The fairway and green have both been the second-most difficult to hit this week, off the tee (51.3 percent) and in regulation (40.7 percent). Se Ri Pak cites the tight fairway landing area as a cause for both stats to be low.
“If you miss the fairway you have no chance,” said the 1998 U.S. Women’s Open champion. “Then you have to play upslope and the green has such big undulation. You can’t really see front to back.”
For the second round, the USGA moved the tees up 10 yards, from 436 yards to 426 yards.
“That made it a little easier for us to carry all of the bunkers,” said two-time U.S. Women’s Open champion Karrie Webb, though the hole actually played tougher.
“Either way you have to hit a nice fade, but I think the second shot is the hardest part. I haven’t been able to fly the ball high in there for whatever reason. So it’s a hard green to get the ball where you want and then it’s not an easy green to putt.”
Just ask Kerr.
Testing Mind, Soul And Body
A U.S. Women's Open is difficult enough with the USGA's traditional setup. Add weather delays, the Cheyenne Mountain effect on the greens and altitude adjustments on club selection, and the national championship can become mind-numbing.
"There is a lot more to think about here than normal U.S. Opens with the altitude," said Angela Stanford, who stood at even-par 142 through 36 holes. "There's never a time in a U.S. Open to relax, but there is really not one here. I'm not a math major, but maybe that's helped me play one shot at a time, because I'm having a hard time doing all the math."
Juli Inkster said earlier in the week that she carries a special graph in her yardage book to aid in her calculations.
As for the weather, I.K. Kim jokingly said she thinks delays are a given part of this championship. Kim's four previous U.S. Women's Open appearances (2007-2010) have featured weather delays.
"Oh, the USGA makes it really tough for all of us," she joked. "The weather you can't really control, but you really have got to play with what we get."
This year Kim, who is in contention at 3-under 139, is prepared for any delay.
"I just got a new iPad, so I'm pretty excited," she said. "I have plenty of time to play games and everything."
Stacy Lewis had a second nine to forget during her second round. When she made the turn, she was four under par, pushing it to five under through 13 holes. Then the bottom fell out after play resumed following a 66-minute weather suspension late on Friday. Lewis bogeyed the par-4 14th, then double-bogeyed No. 15. When play was suspended due to darkness, Lewis had two holes to play. She bogeyed No. 18, statistically the hardest hole on the course (4.6 stroke average) to drop four strokes to par in five holes.
“Yeah, I'm pretty disappointed with the way I played the last five or six holes,” said Lewis. “It was playing hard. I just didn't hit any fairways.
“My caddie told me, ‘You're in it; we still got two more days.’ Well, two more rounds. Who knows how many more days it will be.” – Ken Klavon
Time On Her Side
Yani Tseng's longtime adviser, Ernie Huang, was among the many following the world's top-ranked player around the grounds at The Broadmoor. Tseng had back-to-back 73s during the first two rounds and was trailing 36-hole leader Mika Miyazato by nine strokes.
Huang acknowledged Tseng will have her work cut out to win her fifth career major and complete the career Grand Slam. But he quickly added, “She still has two more chances to do it before Tiger,” Huang said.
Tiger Woods is the youngest player in history to complete a career slam, doing it at 24 years and nearly seven months when he won the 2000 British Open at St. Andrews. Tseng, 22, will have the opportunity to compete in two more U.S. Women's Opens – the only major missing from her slam resumé – before she would reach that age. Tseng turns 23 in January.
Wie Answers Critics
Both Annika Sorenstam and Dottie Pepper have questioned Michelle Wie's commitment to golf in comments this week. In a press conference on Wednesday, Sorenstam was asked if she thinks Wie has lived up to her potential.
“I would say she has not performed to her expectations or her potential,” Sorenstam said. “Hopefully that will come, maybe this year or the next few years to follow... You know, I think really her focus, in my opinion, should be more on the golf. She's very distracted with school, doesn't really play as much full-time as I thought she would.”
On Saturday, after sinking a 35-foot putt for birdie on No. 18 that allowed her to make the cut on the number at 7-over 149, Wie responded to the comments.
“I think that a lot of people have been talking about that recently, but going to school, getting a degree from Stanford, is definitely one of my biggest dreams,” said Wie, who is on track to graduate from Stanford next March with a degree in economics.
“At the same time, I am a professional golfer and I am putting that as a priority. Even when I'm at school, if I have choice between having to study or having to practice, I choose to practice. It is my career, so it is something that is especially important to me. Getting an education is important as well.
“You know, I'm trying my hardest. I'm not going to say it's easy, but if I quit (school) now, it's something I'm going to regret the rest of my life.”
Webb Stays In Open Hunt
Karrie Webb was hot on the trail of the leaders on Saturday before she tumbled on the inward nine of her second round. The LPGA Hall of Famer had three bogeys and a 38 on her second nine, falling to 1-over 143 after 36 holes.
“I would have liked to have been a couple of shots better,” Webb said. “But you know, I'm not out of it. I didn't shoot myself in the foot too much. I mean, it's going to be a long weekend, so it's hard to tell what's going to win.”
Webb won back-to-back Women's Open titles in 2000-2001, but she has not had a top-10 in the championship since. Still, she believes experience will count for something.
“I think sometimes you can be like a rookie in many ways, because you start pressing when you don't need to,” said the 36-year-old Webb, who has two wins in a resurgent 2011. “I've done that many times at the U.S. Open. It helps to listen to the voice of experience.”