U.S. WOMEN'S OPEN CHAMPIONSHIP: World No. 1 leads after long day for most

Jun. 19, 2014 @ 08:42 PM

It was a pretty day on Thursday at Pinehurst No. 2. The sun was shining. There wasn't much cloud cover. It was a nice, hot North Carolina summer day.

But on the golf course, there wasn’t much beautiful to look at.

Only five players broke par during the first round of the U.S. Women’s Open as firm greens didn’t hold shots, particularly in the afternoon rounds, and bogeys were plentiful.

“The golf course wasn’t easy, by any means,” said Stacy Lewis, who leads the tournament at 3-under after a 67. “It’s going to play hard the rest of the week. But the way it’s set up today, if you hit good shots, you get rewarded.”

Lewis, the women’s world No. 1 player, managed to hit enough of them and avoided bad ones, as she shot the only bogey-free round of the day to take a one-shot lead over Michelle Wie. After her round, she said there’s a possibility for someone to take charge of the tournament and break away, like Martin Kaymer did last week in the men’s U.S. Open.

“I thought that somebody, like the guys, somebody can run away with this,” Lewis said. “If you’re hitting the ball well enough, you can definitely run away with it. At the same time, you have to know par is a good number and keep grinding away.”

Wie ground out a solid 68. After shooting a 2-over 36 on the front nine, she had four birdies, including an emphatic closing birdie on 18.

“You know, I’ll take it,” she said. “Any round under par, I’ll take it. It was a grind out there today. It will probably be a grind the next three days, but I’ll take it.”

Katherine Kirk, 2012 champion So Yeon Ryu and amateur Minjee Lee each had 69s to tie for third at 1-under. Karrie Webb and Paula Creamer finished their rounds at even-par, while Candie Kung, Stephanie Meadow and Mina Harigae were left on the course at even.

The players had to contend with dry and fast greens thanks to temperatures that reached the 90s throughout the day with little relief. Difficulty with greens cost amateur Marissa Chow, who at one point led at 4-under, six strokes with back-to-back-to-back double bogeys at holes No. 8, 9, and 10.

“I would say this is the driest and fastest it’s been,” Kirk said. “(Three-putts are) going to happen out here, with the greens as fast as they are. I was fortunate I made enough birdies to kind of equalize them.”

With the way the course was set up, some were predicting even-par as the winning score for the week.

“I think you had to shoot a good score (today) the way the course was set up,” Webb said. “If you didn’t today, I think you’d be playing catch-up all week.”

Those playing catch-up will be chasing after Lewis and Wie. Lewis was able to make pars when necessary and was quite happy with it.

“Coming into the week, I knew par is never a bad score at a U.S. Open,” she said. “So even if I had a couple of holes I had some 10-, 15-footers I didn’t make for birdie, instead of getting frustrated, I told myself it’s an easy par, it’s a U.S. Open, it’s fine. So I really just stayed patient and stayed relaxed out there.”

Wie fought through some greens trouble of her own with some great approach shots and clutch birdie putts. She said her short game will have to be at its highest level of creativity the rest of the week.

“It’s a good short game golf course, just because you’re going to miss greens,” she said. “You are going to miss it on the short side. You’ve got to get creative with your shots.”

Play was suspended around 7:20 p.m. and officially called off at 7:55 due to thunderstorms. Today, 30 players still on the course at the end of play Thursday will finish their rounds starting at 6:45 a.m..

Rain likely softened up the greens for play today. That should help players teeing off in the morning like Lewis and Wie strengthen their leads, but if the course begins to firm up again, there's no telling what will happen for the afternoon competitors.