Ladies take differing approaches to scouting No. 2
Scouting a golf course usually involves going out and playing practice rounds, trying different shots and putts.
The participants in this week’s U.S. Women’s Open, which begins today, had a unique opportunity this past week in watching the best men’s players in the world attempt to tackle Pinehurst No. 2 just a week before the best women’s players in the world try their hand at the same course.
“It’s such a unique experience, just to kind of have the information, that’s never really happened before,” said Michelle Wie, playing in her 11th U.S. Women’s Open at just age 24. “You normally go up to a golf course site, the information would probably be from like years ago when they replayed it or something.”
Some of the players watched a lot of the tournament on TV to help prepare for the week ahead and gained some insight. Suzann Pettersen, a two-time major champion, said she learned a lot from watching Martin Kaymer avoid mistakes and get some low scores.
“You can survive, you can come back from a bogey,” she said. “What I thought was great last week was you’ll see good shots being rewarded and you’ll see birdies out there, you might even see eagles. You’ve just really got to eliminate the big numbers.”
The women began arriving on the course Sunday morning and even practiced alongside some of the men on the driving range and putting green. Several of the women walked the last few holes of the men’s final group to attempt to get a feel for how the course would play.
Lexi Thompson, the 2014 Kraft Nabisco Championship winner, said she watched at least an hour a day in preparation and came out on the last day to get a feel of how the course would play. Jessica Korda, who’s won twice on Tour this year, was also out on Sunday.
“I thought that I could do a lot of homework also watching TV and stuff, but that went all out the window by the time I got here because on TV you don’t see anything,” she said. “You don’t see how the fairways are undulated, how undulated the greens are, how big the runoffs are. You don’t see any of that on TV. So you don’t really know what to prepare for.”
Korda and Wie gleaned a lot from Rickie Fowler, who finished tied for second in the men’s Open. Along with advice, Wie got his yardage book, along with Keegan Bradley’s.
She’s already learned from looking over that material, comparing yardage books before her Tuesday press conference.
“Knowledge is key around here,” Wie said. “Just knowing where to miss it, where not to miss it. This is pretty fresh information and it’s pretty similar conditions to what we’ll play it. I think it’s going to be very useful and I’m very thankful that they gave it to me for me to use.”
Some avoided a lot of scouting. Stacy Lewis, the women’s No. 1, didn’t watch any of the tournament until the end just to see some good golf, instead remembering what she learned from a practice round three weeks ago.
“I didn’t want to see balls running off greens and doing this and that,” she said. “I wanted to have some good positive memories of the course. If anything, I got just some affirmation of my strategy and what I have going into the week.”
While the course has been shortened by nearly 700-800 yards for the women, that doesn’t change how the course will play. It’s safe to expect that greens will get firm and mistakes will have to be avoided.
“I think it’s a great and very cool thing to be faced with the same challenges as the guys just had last week,” Pettersen said. “You’ve got to hit fairways. You’ve really got to be disciplined hitting into the greens. You’ve got to find your squares and stick to it.”
Juli Inkster, who’s playing in her 35th and likely last U.S. Women’s Open, said the players appreciate the good conditions the course is in, unlike some of the courses that show up on the women’s circuit.
“We play good golf courses, but sometimes we don’t play great golf courses,” she said. “It seems the men play great golf courses, week in and week out. I think when we come here we’re maybe a little more appreciative of playing a great golf course.”
She also said that Pinehurst is the best place for back-to-back tournaments like this to be played at, and wants more occasions like this in the future.
“This is the perfect venue for it. It’s a golf haven,” she said. “Everytime we turn around there’s greens and flag sticks and holes. They’re everywhere. I think this is the perfect place to try this. I would love to see it happen more often.”