U.S. WOMEN'S OPEN
Marquee Trip Playing Catch-up on Friday July 8, 2016 | San Martin, Calif. By Tom Mackin

Lydia Ko (left) and Brooke Henderson enjoyed each other's company, but not their scores, in Round 1 on Thursday at CordeValle. (USGA/Steven Gibbons)

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The marquee group of the first two rounds at the 2016 U.S. Women’s Open drew plenty of attention on Thursday at CordeValle, but not entirely for the expected reasons. Encountering a slightly stiffer wind and firmer conditions during afternoon play, Lydia Ko, Brooke Henderson and Lexi Thompson finished a cumulative 7 over par in the opening round, leaving the trio with plenty of ground to regain in the second round.

World No. 1 Ko finished her opening round with a 1-over-par 73 that included four bogeys and three birdies. Her short game, usually a strength, fell a bit short. “When I did miss a green, I didn't make that many up and downs,” she said. “In majors, it is tough to get around the pin. You do have to scramble. And that's what I was missing today.”

“I didn’t play that great, but I just finished bad,” said world No. 4 Thompson, who hit nine of 18 greens in regulation while shooting a 2-over-par 74. “I didn’t really have many birdie putts, and then I missed two short putts coming in, so that doesn’t usually help the scorecard.”

Henderson, ranked No. 2 in the world, was disappointed with her 4-over-par 76, which began with a birdie but was followed by bogeys on three of her next four holes.

“There were just a couple of mishit shots out there that put me in the wrong positions and I didn’t have a lot of green to work with a lot of the time,” said Henderson, who ended her day with back-to-back bogeys. “That being said, it wasn’t far off from being really good. I was hoping to get it back to even by the end of the day, so it was just kind of a rough round. Hopefully I can clear some things up and be better (during the second round).”

The group’s indifferent play was not a topic of conversation during the round, according to Ko. “We're talking out there, but we're not saying how difficult it is,” she said. “We're talking about where we're staying, what's for dinner. We talk about food. But we were still talking. We had a good time.”

What did catch their attention was the outstanding play of first-round leader Mirim Lee (8-under-par 64), one of 37 players to finish under par on the day. “I don't know what course she played, maybe the ladies tees, maybe a different course,” said Ko. “We were checking the leader board. She made two bogeys and still shot 8-under. It's very impressive. She must have hit a lot of fairways and made good putts.”

Lee also avoided the afternoon’s change in wind direction. “It was a total opposite wind, so it was a lot different,” said Thompson. “It was pretty windy during the practice rounds, just the opposite wind.”

Ko wasn’t surprised by how conditions changed when the wind picked up on the incoming nine. “The greens and the surroundings of the greens got firmer. I think that's what you have to expect – a little softer in the mornings, and then definitely firm up as the day goes on, and especially in the afternoons.”

With their second round starting at 8:28 a.m. Friday off the first hole, the high-profile trio hopes to take advantage of what will likely be better scoring conditions in the morning,

Whatever the weather though, Thompson knows exactly what she and her playing partners now have to do.

“Forget about it (the first round) and come in today with a good attitude and see how it goes.”

Arizona resident Tom Mackin is a frequent contributor to USGA websites. Email him at temackinjr@gmail.com

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