SOUTHAMPTON, N.Y. – Mariajo Uribe enjoyed less than ideal preparation in the weeks leading up to the 68th U.S. Women’s Open. She came in having missed three out of four cuts and not only was recovering from a wrist injury, but also was fighting a swing change necessitated by that injury.
So, of course Uribe, a fifth-year professional who has one unofficial victory in her career, opened the championship at Sebonack Golf Club by firing a 2-under-par 70 Thursday morning, three shots off the pace set by world No. 1 Inbee Park.
OK, granted, Uribe was far from confident when she arrived on Long Island. But USGA championships seem to bring out the best in the 23-year-old Colombian, who at 17 won the 2007 U.S. Women’s Amateur at Crooked Stick Golf Club near Indianapolis.
“I love the USGA events. My game fits really well with them too,” said Uribe, a former UCLA All-American who carded her second-lowest score in six Women’s Open appearances. “I think I play better under pressure, so you really have to bring your A‑game to this tournament. I come from missing two cuts the last few weeks and not hitting the ball that well on courses that really didn't demand good ball striking, and today was great. It's clicking. I feel really good about this week, definitely.”
It helps when you feel healthy. Uribe, coming off her best pro season when she finished 60th on the LPGA Tour money list – which earned her an exemption into this Women’s Open – hurt her left wrist in the first round of the North Texas LPGA Shootout on April 25 when her club struck a tree root buried just beneath the surface.
She has played through the injury while also working on a swing change. Uribe always has had a “handsy” swing, but the injury has forced her to use her big muscles and her body more.
A tie for 13th at the Mobile Bay LPGA Classic two weeks after withdrawing from North Texas seemed to auger a quick transition, but since then Uribe has made just one cut, a tie for 53rd, in her last four starts.
After she arrived at Sebonack, Uribe made a few small adjustments in tempo and ball position. Her five-birdie, three-bogey effort on Thursday gives Uribe some encouragement for handling an examination that is as much about temperament as it is shotmaking.
She was sorely tested mentally on the challenging Sebonack greens down the stretch, missing a couple of 5-foot par putts on 14 and 15 after going out in 2-under 33. Uribe regained a stroke on the par-5 18th when she wedged her third to 5 feet and converted the birdie putt.
“I really wanted to finish two under, and I got it all the way to three. I had a lot of opportunities and didn't make them,” said Uribe, whose best U.S. Women’s Open came in 2008, when she tied for 10th to finish as low amateur. “So it's one of those things where you really force yourself to have a birdie and finish on a good note.
“I think the most important thing of the USGA events is the patience. I’m really good at that,” she added, after hitting 12 fairways and 12 greens and registering a respectable 28 putts. “I have a lot of passion for the game, and I really battle out there. So I think that's pretty much it. I love this course. It's in great shape, and I'm really excited we're here this week.”
Dave Shedloski is an Ohio-based freelance writer whose work has previously appeared on USGA websites.