Kohler, Wis. – Among the major storylines of Thursday’s first round was the heat. According to AccuWeather.com, the temperature reached 102 degrees, which even had an effect on those accustomed to playing in warm climates.
Ai Miyazato (2-under 70) carried an ice pack in her bag and cooled down between shots on her last three holes, when the heat was at its most stifling. Meena Lee (1-under 71), decked out in a long-sleeve shirt and slacks, said she kept a wet towel draped over her head virtually the entire round.
Asked how much water she consumed, Wendy Ward, of San Antonio, Texas, said: “A case. I don't know. You feel like whatever you pull in you're pushing right back out.
“You know, it's funny because we were in Rogers, Arkansas, last week for the Northwest Arkansas Walmart Championship, and it was just like this except probably not even quite as hot. So now we're all joking. That was our tune-up for this week, and we thought it would be the other way around.”
Seventeen-year-old Lexi Thompson, who plays much of her golf in Coral Springs, Fla., said she drank a bottle of water on every hole. She finished with a 2-under-par 70.
“I had my umbrella pretty much the whole time and a cool towel around my neck. So staying hydrated was really important,” she said.
Cheyenne Woods, from Phoenix, Ariz., is used to playing in temperatures that reach 115 degrees. The humidity, however, was another factor.
“I wouldn't say the hottest, but it's definitely brutal out here,” said Woods, who shot 3-over 75. “I'm sweating more than I ever have.”
Paula Creamer, who shot 1-over 73, wore an all-black outfit.
[The heat is] such another element to add to it that you tend to – you're not thinking 100 percent clearly all the time,” said Creamer. “And I think that's the hardest fight and battle out there is trying to just be in the shade as much as you possibly can.”
Beatriz Recari, who shot 2-under 70, is from northern Spain but moved to Florida because she loves the heat. She said her No. 1 goal was to stay hydrated.
Random strands of pony-tailed hair stuck to the back of Gerina Piller’s neck as she spoke about her debut in the U.S. Women’s Open, a 1-over-par 73. Though the heat bore down after her five-hour-plus round, she was in no rush to find the comfort of a cooler indoors.
"For me I love it,” Piller said. “I love when it's hot. I think it's great. You don't have to warm up as much. You do have to remind yourself to eat and drink a lot of water when you get involved in what you're doing with trying to play golf. I always say if I can't shoot the weather, then it's too cold."
Piller, 32, is from Roswell, N.M., and played collegiately at the University of Texas-El Paso. No Wisconsin heat is hotter than what she grew up in. Equally nonplussed by the excessive heat was Ward, who posted an even-par 72.
“It's just another element,” she said. “At the British [Open] you got rain or wind or cold, so it's just another element that you can't get too caught up in. It is what it is.”
After Sandra Gal of Germany came into the clubhouse at 1-under 71, she tried estimating how much water she took in.
“I don't think I can count them on my two hands,” said Gal.
Ryann O’Toole, a 25-year-old Southern Californian, figures that the heat works to her advantage.
“The hotter the better, the firmer the better,” she said after a 3-over 75. “I think this week the course is just going to keep getting harder.”
O’Toole, the 2011 U.S. Solheim Cup Team member who tied for ninth at The Broadmoor last year, teed off at 7:44 a.m. CDT, when temperatures were still tolerable. Through six holes she was at 2-under par and among the early leaders.
“You can’t let your guard down. I started thinking I was cruising along and then ‘Boom’ I make a double bogey [at the par-5 seventh],” said O’Toole, who added successive bogeys on the ninth and 10th holes. “You just cannot let that happen.”
No matter how hot it gets.
Ward Is Back
Ward, 39, was one of nine players to compete in the 1998 U.S. Women’s Open at Blackwolf Run. On Thursday, she shot even-par 72.
“You can always say you could have gotten one or two more, but at a U. S. Open you take even par just about any round you get out there,” said Ward. “I played real steady. I played solid. I didn't miss a fairway. Missed a couple greens with good shots in. Just you know, real fine angles out here.”
On Friendly Turf
With birdies on her opening two holes, Se Ri Pak looked like she was simply picking up where she left off 14 years ago when she won the 53rd U.S. Women’s Open at Blackwolf Run.
Even though she eventually gave back a few shots, a round of even-par 72 didn’t dampen her enthusiasm for being back on familiar – and friendly – turf.
“Actually, [it’s] very exciting to be back again,” said Pak, 34, who in ’98 opened with a 2-under 69. “Of course, it was 14 years ago, but the funny thing I remember was at the playoff, last couple holes, and then I did a practice round earlier and they moved the tee. It felt like a totally different golf course, you know. But as I said, I have such great memories about '98, so no matter what, I feel really great to be out.”
Pak is making just her eighth start of the year after she dislocated her left shoulder in late April when she slipped on a set of stairs. She returned faster than anticipated, however, missing just six weeks.
She classified her round as “really solid,” and it was, as evidenced by hitting 12 of 14 fairways and 15 greens in regulation. “I'm very happy about the way I'm playing. But this golf course, you miss one shot a little and you look and you have huge scores, huge numbers all of a sudden show up.”
Largely, however, Pak stayed away from big numbers. That gives her a chance for another big week, perhaps.
“Still three rounds to go,” she said. “I will do my best … but no matter what happens, this is my best ever, ever tournament, no doubt about it. And, of course, as I said, I wish I could do it one more time, but we'll see.”
Talk About Good Luck
Cathryn Bristow was at Chicago O’Hare Airport boarding a U.S. Airways flight bound for Charlotte and then on to her home in Houston Thursday morning when she received a call from the USGA. A spot had opened in the U.S. Women’s Open when Song-Hee Kim of Korea withdrew.
“I desperately wanted to play in the U.S. Open,” said Bristow, of New Zealand, who received the call at about 8:45 CDT, 40 minutes before her 9:25 departure time. “I mean, what else was I going to say?”
She said yes. That was after Chelsea Mocio, the first alternate from the Frisco, Texas, sectional site, had to decline because she was already home in Fort Worth, Texas.
Bristow managed to retrieve her bags, including her clubs, from the plane, then secured a rental car. It took nearly three hours of driving from the airport, but she arrived on the grounds of Blackwolf Run at 1 p.m., enough time to warm up for a 2:09 start off No. 1 with Sophie Gustafson and Jennifer Johnson.
Having not picked up a club since Monday after competing in the Symetra Tour’s Island Resort Championship in Harris, Mich. – where she finished tied for 46th – Bristow was not disappointed with her 11-over 83.
“It’s my first U.S. Open. I wish I could have been more prepared – like knowing where to hit it – but I was excited anyways,” said Bristow, the only left-hander in the field. “I think only two other players from New Zealand had ever played in the U.S. Open, so it was great having the chance.”
The kicker to the whole story: Bristow had overslept and missed her originally scheduled 7a.m. flight.
Speaking Her Mind
One golf legend was salivating over the par-4 first hole, which played to 351 yards Thursday. The hole features a blind second shot that tested the field. The hole played as the ninth-hardest, averaging 4.25.
Five-time USGA champion Mickey Wright weighed in about the novelty of the hole.
“I would love to have had a starting hole so hard,” she said via e-mail. “My goodness, a 3-wood (sorry, 3-metal), and an 8- or 9-iron in, blind or not, wow!”
Coming off last week’s victory at the Walmart NW Arkansas Championship, Ai Miyazato is trying to move ahead and concentrate on this week despite shooting 65 in her final round.
“You know, just last week was just last week. You know, I try to forget about my winning because this week is just a completely different golf course and different conditions, too.
“So I just trying to shake it off everything and trying to make refresh and that's why I think I played really well today.”
Ken Klavon is the USGA’s online editor. Dave Shedloski is an Ohio-based freelance writer. Stuart Hall, a North Carolina-based freelance writer, also contributed.