SOUTHAMPTON, N.Y. – Sebonack Golf Club became a surly golf course Saturday in the third round of the U.S. Women’s Open.
Inbee Park showed why she is leading this championship and is in line for a second Women’s Open title when she birdied the home hole for a 1-under-par 71. She was the only player among the 68 who made the cut to break par.
Just four other players managed to shoot even par.
Though the scoring average of 76.56 was slightly lower than in the second round when the full field combined to score 76.63, the fact that only one player could crack the code and post a red number showed how difficult Sebonack had become on a day of sunshine and gusting winds that made club selection difficult.
The teeing grounds were moved back on some holes (the cumulative yardage of 6,629 was some 35 yards more than on Friday), and faster greens and challenging hole locations also took a toll on nerves and numbers.
“The greens were, like, really faster. You had be careful on everything,” said Japan’s Ai Miyazato, one of four players who posted par 72.
“I think it's windier today than it was yesterday, and they've moved the tees a little further back,” said Catriona Matthew after a 74. “It played pretty tough out there today.”
Paula Creamer, who also had a 72, said she wasn’t surprised by the tougher examination on golf’s moving day. There was movement all right: nine players dropped precipitously with scores in the 80s.
“They should [make it harder]. I still think it’s fair,” said Creamer, the 2010 Women’s Open champion. “I think that this golf course is awesome when it's this windy. You've got to be a great ball-striker. You have got to be creative. You've got to use a lot of the slopes.”
And, obviously, you’ve got to be patient.
“It's definitely a U.S. Open kind of day out there today,” Kristy McPherson, another 72 shooter, said. “You know, pars are good scores.”
Change for the Better
After struggling to a 5-over-par 40 on the first nine holes Saturday, Jessica Korda felt she had to make a change in caddies, replacing Jason Gilroyed with her boyfriend, Johnny DelPrete.
The move, far from unprecedented in the long annals of golf and player-caddie relationships, seemed to help. After a bogey at 12, Korda birdied two of her last four holes to salvage a 76.
“We had a couple disagreements here and there, and I wasn't in the right state of mind and I just was more consumed on what was going on just not my way,” said Korda, 20. “I knew I needed to switch and just have a little bit more fun out there. It's a U.S. Open. It's tough out there. It just wasn't working out.”
Gilroyed, who had been on Korda’s bag for a year, formerly worked for Cristie Kerr, the 2007 Women’s Open champion. DelPrete, who also plays professional golf, will caddie again on Sunday.
“It was tough for me, because I care about Jason a lot. He is a great guy,” said Korda. “That's just how it happens sometimes in life. That was one of those things today that it just unfolded. It was very hard for me to do. I'm not that type of person to take these things really easily.”
Lindy Duncan walked off the 18th green shaking her head at the three-putt par she had just recorded. A 4 would have put the recent Duke University graduate inside the top 10 in her first Women’s Open as a professional. Still, a 3-over 75 was nothing to be too frustrated over.
Ten days ago, Duncan, 22, of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., was making plans to play in her second Symetra Tour event. Then the USGA called, informing the 2012 USA Curtis Cup Team member that she was in the Women’s Open field.
Now she’s a solid round away from a potential sizable check and an exemption into the 2014 U.S. Women’s Open at Pinehurst No. 2, about an hour away from where Duncan was a four-time first-team All-American.
The low 10 and ties automatically get in.
“I’m in that position,” said Duncan, who is tied for 12th at 3-over 219. “I hope I can get it done. But if you start thinking about all that other stuff on this golf course, it’s going to eat you up.”
Duncan kept her momentum going by grinding out pars, including a two-putt 4 on No. 10 from 80 feet. Her lone birdie came at the 16th hole, and she got up and down for par on 17 from the shrubs. On 18, she rolled her long eagle try from the fringe to 7 feet and missed a testy right-to-left birdie putt.
“That was not an easy putt as are none of the putts on this golf course,” said Duncan. “Today was a really hard day. I feel like I kept myself in it.”
For So Yeon Ryu, the ultimate birthday present would be wrapping her arms around the Women’s Open trophy on Sunday evening. The 2011 champion stayed in contention for that opportunity on her 23rd birthday, carding a 1-over 73 in the challenging conditions.
“Well, before I teed off, I really wanted to enjoy my birthday,” said Ryu, who won in a three-hole playoff at The Broadmoor. “It was really hard to enjoy the golf, especially this tough golf course.”
As for any celebrations, Ryu said she might have some cake with her housemate this week, Mi Jung Hur, but there’s a planned trip into New York on Sunday night.
The trophy would make for a nice companion.
As they gathered on the 10th tee to begin the third round, Louie Paolini, the caddie for Ayako Uehara, introduced himself to Nelly Korda, and asked the lanky Bradenton, Fla., resident, “How old are you?”
Korda, who made the 36-hole cut on the number (6-over 150), politely replied, “14.”
Paolini just shook his head in amazement.
Seconds later, Lew Ellen Erickson, the 10th-tee starter and USGA Women’s Committee member, asked Paolini, “Do you want to know how old I am?” The two just smiled.
It was an anxious morning for Nelly Korda. With only a handful of players yet to finish the delayed second round, the cut appeared destined to fall at 5-over 149. However, Nicole Jeray double-bogeyed the 17th hole to go from five to seven over for the championship, which allowed the nine golfers at 6-over 150 to play the weekend.
The low 60 and ties qualified for the final 36 holes.
“When Jessica played in 2008, she also made the cut on the number,” said Petr Korda of his eldest daughter, whose first Women’s Open was as a 15-year-old at Interlachen Country Club. “We had to come out [Saturday] morning and finish. She needed to play her final two holes in two over and she did.”
Perhaps. The winner that year was Inbee Park.
David Shefter is a senior writer with the USGA. Dave Shedloski is an Ohio-based freelance writer whose work has previously appeared on USGA websites.