Oakmont, Pa. – It wouldn’t have been a surprise if Cristie Kerr had walked into the interview area Friday nursing a migraine headache.
Kerr, who took the No. 1 spot in the Rolex Rankings after her 12-stroke victory two weeks ago at the LPGA Championship, knows that any U.S. Women’s Open requires extraordinary focus and grit. With temperatures still hovering in the 90s after she finished her second round and players taking as long as six hours to finish, Kerr acknowledged getting headaches from the physical and mental strain this kind of championship golf produces.
I could only have one glass of wine last night instead of two or three – just kidding, she joked with media members after posting an even-par 71 to share the clubhouse lead with first-round leader Brittany Lang at 1-over 143 midway through the second round of the 65th U.S. Women’s Open, which was suspended at 2:29 p.m. EDT and ultimately postponed for the day at 4 p.m.
Oakmont Country Club’s penal and challenging layout is enough to drive even the best players to distraction.
Consider that Lang followed a brilliant 69 with a three-over-par 74. The four golfers who shot 1-under 70s on Thursday averaged 78.2 on Friday, led by Amy Yang’s 75. Amateur Kelli Shean of South Africa had a 79. Inbee Park, the 2008 champion, shot 78 and M.J. Hur ballooned to an 81.
Only three players shot par or better among the morning wave, with Stacy Lewis’ 70 leading the way. Besides Kerr, Heather Young also had a 71. Lewis and Yang are two behind Kerr at 145.
You’re going to miss shots out there, said Kerr, who leads Christina Kim (72-72—144) by one stroke. There is a lot of trouble on this golf course. You know, I [have] managed to stay out of it so far.
For the second consecutive day, Kerr found herself battling back, although she started slightly better. She birdied the par-3 13th by knocking a pitching wedge to 4 feet, but she double-bogeyed No. 15 following a poor drive. She made the turn at 3-over 39, then rallied with three consecutive birdies from No. 4. She had a chance to finish under par, but three-putted the par-5 ninth for par from 75 feet.
On Thursday, the 14-time LPGA Tour winner recovered from a bogey-bogey start to shoot a 72.
You have to have the patience of a saint this week on this golf course, said Kerr. The ebb and flow of this course is you’re going to give some back.
You have to hopefully get more back than you give away.
At least Kerr was able to take the rest of the afternoon off while the remaining 98 players in the field battled the difficult venue and the stormy weather – play was called for the day at 4 p.m. She planned to take in a movie and perhaps enjoy a glass of wine.
I’m less tired today than I was yesterday after the round, she said. When you’re teeing off at 1 [p.m.] and it’s almost six hours for a round in that kind of heat [we had] yesterday, that was tough. I think it was a bit cooler today, and the morning [starting time] helped.
I think it’s going to be great for me to get some rest … and get out here tomorrow.
Lang, meanwhile, reached three under par early in the round, only to slowly give the strokes back. Three consecutive bogeys from No. 5 pushed the 2005 Women’s Open runner-up out of red figures, but she closed with a birdie at the par-5 ninth.
I feel really good, said Lang, likely relieved to be done with 36 holes before the heavy downpours began and play was suspended. I got away from my process and what I’m doing when I made those few bogeys, so something to learn. I just got a little ahead of myself.
Lang, who attended Duke University for two years and won six college tournaments, is still searching for that elusive first LPGA Tour victory. In fact, no Blue Devil has ever won a major championship, let alone an LPGA Tour victory, a fact that is not lost on Lang.
Recently the school has produced the likes of former LPGA Tour rookie of the year Beth Bauer (1997 U.S. Girls’ Junior champion), Amanda Blumenherst (2008 U.S. Women’s Amateur champion), Candy Hanneman, Virada Nirapathpongporn (2003 U.S. Women’s Amateur champion), Anna Grzebien, Elizabeth Janangelo and Jennie Lee.
I’d like to be the first Dukie to win, said Lang, a 24-year-old from McKinney, Texas. That would be great. It’s amazing how the Duke players have not been that successful on tour. And I don’t know why because they’re great players.
It would mean everything to win a U.S. Open. Just like playing in the Solheim Cup, winning your country’s Open, it would mean the world to me.
David Shefter is a USGA communications staff writer. E-mail him with questions or comments at firstname.lastname@example.org.