U.S. WOMEN'S OPEN
Contenders Facing Adjustments for Expected Tough Third Round July 6, 2012 | Kohler, Wis. By Dave Shedloski

Suzann Pettersen, the 36-hole leader, expects a tougher third-round setup on Saturday at Blackwolf Run. (Fred Vuich/USGA)

An admirably handsome round of championship golf usually precipitates a common line of thinking from those fortunate and skilled enough to have produced it.

They usually talk about, sticking to the game plan or keep doing what I’m doing.

It’s a good plan. But what if the golf course setup won’t let them keep doing what they’ve been doing? Each day presents new challenges, and in recent years the USGA has done an exceptional job of altering the setup of the golf course at its three Open championships.

Saturday is the traditional moving day in golf. But moving up the leaderboard Saturday at the 67th U.S. Women’s Open means adjusting to the moving targets at Blackwolf Run.

Accessible hole locations and greens that were holding approach shots contributed to lower scores in Friday’s second round. Twenty-six golfers broke par, led by Michelle Wie’s stellar 66 that put the 2003 U.S.  Women’s Amateur Public Links champion in today’s final pairing with 36-hole leader Suzann Pettersen.

But a notably varied setup is likely to greet the 65 players who made the cut, and nobody could surmise just what they’ll encounter.

Going into the weekend, who knows how they're going to set it up? So you can't really predict, said 2007 U.S. Women’s Open champion Cristie Kerr.

Will 26 players break par?

"It all depends on how Ben Kimball, director of the U.S. Women’s Open Championship," and Martha Lang, chairman of the USGA Women’s Committee, "decides to challenge the players."

It’s the job of the players to adjust. And adjust they must.

"What I've noticed this week, there's a lot of variety, where they can put the pins and how many tee boxes there are," said Sandra Gal of Germany, who starts Round Three two behind Pettersen at 3-under 141. "So there's really a lot of choices from the USGA to put some of the pins, and that makes it interesting every single hole.  You really gotta look at that yardage book well and make sure you're on the right side of the pin where you want to miss it. Obviously, I know they're going to have some interesting choices you can make, some decisions."

"I like the U.S. Open. It's usually the biggest test of golf throughout the year," added Pettersen, who carded a 68 on Friday, her best round in 10 Women’s Open appearances. "I like the way the USGA sets up the courses.  They make it tough. They make it fair. And it's by far one of my favorite championships, just because of that.

"But this year there are birdies out there. I probably shouldn't say this, because we come out [on Saturday] and they'll probably make it impossible. But the course is playable. So just keep sticking to the game plan."

Again, just to review, the plan is to stick to the plan.

Good luck with that, especially with the golf course gradually drying out and a possibility of more wind this weekend.

"It depends. With the way they're moving the tee boxes up‑and‑down, some holes can be really long or some holes they can make it really short," said Wie, who has been around enough to know that mind games are part of the challenge. "So [Friday] I felt like some of the tee boxes were up. And the golf course is firming up."

"Everything is starting to firm up and getting a little faster," Gerina Piller added. "I noticed with a couple of wedge shots that I hit, it didn't dig as much in the ground, and it kind of bounced. The course is drying out and getting a little faster. It’s just definitely different from [Thursday]."

And it will be different again Saturday.

So sticking to the game plan might not be the wisest course of action. Just keep the parts of the plan that fit what the course demands.

Dave Shedloski is an Ohio-based freelance writer whose work has previously appeared on USGA websites.