Oakmont, Pa. – Oakmont Country Club is challenging enough under benign conditions. Throw a heat wave into the mix and the venerable course can be like sparring with a heavyweight boxing champion.
With temperatures soaring into the 90s this week – and a heat index that was expected to top out at 96 on Wednesday – players are battling not only a difficult layout but stifling weather.
Jiyai Shin of Korea, one of the world’s best players, cut her practice round short on Tuesday because of fatigue. Shin recently had an appendectomy that kept her sidelined for a couple of weeks.
American Paula Creamer also felt the wrath of the elements in her Tuesday practice round.
It’s hot, it’s humid, it’s gross, said Creamer, drawing laughter. You know, the golf course just eats you alive mentally.
If you don’t sleep well after every round out here, then something is wrong with you. Your mind isn’t quite in it [when it’s this hot]. But it’s going to be who drinks the most … that kind of thing. You have to be able to be tough.
Cristie Kerr, the 2007 Women’s Open champion who took over the No. 1 spot in the Rolex rankings after her 12-shot win at the LPGA Championship two weeks ago, was going to pace herself over the final two days of practice rounds. She planned to only play nine holes on Tuesday and Wednesday.
I’ve always prepared well for the U.S. Open, said Kerr, a 14-time LPGA Tour winner. The thing about the Open is you can be as prepared as you can be prepared, and it doesn’t matter sometimes. You’ve just got to go out and try and execute each shot the best you can. The Open doesn’t play favorites. You have to play the golf courses as well as you can.
Even if it means competing in sauna-like conditions.
Even with record-breaking temperatures scorching much of the East Coast, this may not become the hottest Women’s Open in history. That dubious distinction goes to the 1980 Women’s Open in Nashville, Tenn., when temperatures climbed above the 100-degree mark every day. The New York Times reporter Gordon White was so floored by the record temperatures that he put a thermometer in a greenside bunker on Sunday. It reached 117 degrees.
Oakmont does not offer much in terms of water hazards, but that doesn’t mean people aren’t drinking H2O by the case to keep hydrated from the heat.
Lindsay Weber, the marketing and promotional director for Bruno Event Team, the management company that assists the USGA with the operations for the Women’s Open, said 1,000 cases of water were ordered for players, caddies and officials.
Weber added that Prom, the vendor who handles concessions, estimated they would sell between 40,000 and 50,000 bottles of water for the week.
Reign In Spain
It’s been a good couple of weeks for Spain, what with Rafael Nadal winning a second Wimbledon title to back up his No. 1 world ranking and the national soccer team advancing to the World Cup semifinals for the first time. Spain has never won a World Cup title, while Germany has claimed three.
With the semifinal game against Germany set for Wednesday at 2:30 p.m., Spaniards Azahara Munoz and Belen Mozo planned their final U.S. Women’s Open practice round accordingly.
I programmed my day for the game, said Mozo, a 21-year-old from Cadiz who is making her professional debut this week. It’s crazy [back home]. We know we have a great team because we can control the ball much better than the other team. We just have to focus on doing that.
Munoz, the 2008 U.S. Women’s Amateur runner-up and a current member of the LPGA Tour, said she wished she could be home in Malaga to share in the excitement.
And you can bet the celebration went well into the night after the 1-0 victory that sent Spain to its first-ever World Cup final against Netherlands on Sunday.
I bet everyone is going nuts today, said the 22-year-old Arizona State University graduate. I’ve been watching all the games.
Both players said they would like to continue Spain’s good sporting fortune at Oakmont this week. Both golfers are huge fans of Nadal, who now owns eight Grand Slam singles titles, including five at the French Open, but neither has met him in person. A Spaniard, however, has never won the Women’s Open.
He is one of my favorite athletes in the world, said Munoz of Nadal.
Added Mozo: He’s amazing. I am a big fan of his mental game. His strength is unbelievable.
While Mozo has turned pro, she still is finishing up her academics at the University of Southern California. She will graduate in December with a degree in international relations.
Pretty lame, I am still in summer school, said Mozo with a smile. I just turned in my third paper before coming here.
My teachers are pretty understanding. They know I am at the Open. They are flexible.
Mozo also is trying to get into tournaments – mainly in Europe – on sponsor exemptions. She plans to enter LPGA Tour Qualifying School in the fall and join her friend Munoz on the tour.
A Change For The Champion
Defending champion Eun-Hee Ji of Korea said at her Tuesday press conference she has made some significant changes to her golf swing. The 24-year-old has not won since Saucon Valley and her best showing in 2009 has been a T-17 at last week’s Jamie Farr Owens Corning Classic in Toledo, Ohio. She also reached the round of 32 at the Sybase Match Play Championship at Hamilton Farm Golf Club in Gladstone, N.J.
I change my swing a lot, said Ji. The first couple of tournaments I play really, really bad. But it’s getting better right now. And I think I play good [at] this tournament.
So what, exactly, did Ji do with her swing?
My older swing is like [Spain’s] Sergio Garcia, high and drop down, she explained. But now it’s more flat. I have more distance and I can control a lot of my shots [better]. I have more accuracy.
The last time the U.S. Women’s Open was conducted at Oakmont in 1992 -- in fact, the only Women’s Open held at Oakmont -- far down the list of players who completed 72 holes was Annika Sorenstam of Sweden. Sorenstam was second-low amateur and tied for 63rd with a score of 308. Vicki Goetze was low amateur at 301.
Coincidentally, Goetze and Sorenstam met in the 36-hole U.S. Women’s Amateur final later that summer at Kemper Lakes outside of Chicago, with Goetze prevailing, 1 up.
David Shefter is a USGA communications staff writer. E-mail him with questions or comments at firstname.lastname@example.org. Rhonda Glenn (email@example.com), manager of communications for the USGA, contributed to this notebook.