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Published: Friday, 7/8/2011

Weather wreaks havoc with U.S. Women's Open

ASSOCIATED PRESS
Spectators leave after thunderstorms halted play at the U.S. Women's Open in Colorado Springs. Spectators leave after thunderstorms halted play at the U.S. Women's Open in Colorado Springs.
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COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. -- Instead of teeing it up when she comes back to the Broadmoor, Cristie Kerr's next shot at the U.S. Women's Open will be a blast out of the bunker on the front, right side of the seventh green.

A difficult shot. It could be worse.

A quirky day of thunder and lightning -- but only spits of rain -- suspended play Thursday with 25 players making it through the first round. It was a bad break on the opening day of the toughest test in golf -- balky weather that figures to turn one of the most difficult weeks on the schedule into an even bigger grind.

"That's part of the gamble," said Christina Kim, who will try to squeeze in 36 holes Friday.

The rain halted a mini streak for Kerr, who had made two straight birdies to get into a tie for the lead at 2-under par with amateur Amy Anderson. After her second birdie, Kerr, who opened her round on the back, teed off into the right rough on No. 7, then hit her approach into the sand. That's when the siren sounded and the players headed to the clubhouse.

"At least I'll get to practice some long bunker shots before we go out, so maybe it's a good thing for me," she said.

After halting play, the USGA kept the players in the clubhouse for 2 1/2 hours, but with the thunder still rumbling and the radar blinking red, officials called play. There were 75 players on the course and 66 who hadn't hit a shot. That means nearly half the field, including defending champion Paula Creamer and Yani Tseng, trying to complete her career Grand Slam, could face 72 holes in three days.

The Broadmoor is the first U.S. Women's Open course to measure more than 7,000 yards -- quite a haul, even at 6,700 feet in altitude.

"We were actually sitting here debating, what's the better draw?" Kim said. "Is it the one we have and we try to get 36 in in one day, or the one where you have 19 hours between shots in the same round?"

Sarah-Jane Smith of Australia falls into the latter category, but only barely. After hearing her name announced on the first tee box, Smith ripped her first shot down the middle of the fairway and started walking. Suddenly, the sirens blared, and she made a U-turn back to the clubhouse.

"I've not teed off at all before," she said. "But I've never hit one, then walked straight back in. I'm looking forward to it."

Then, pointing to her husband and caddie, Duane, she said, "He should have the yardage figured out by tomorrow morning."

For the record, Duane Smith says it will be a 150-yard shot when play resumes at 7:45 a.m. local time Friday.

And while Smith is sleeping on one good shot, Anderson will join Kerr in sleeping on the lead.

The second-team All-American from North Dakota State hit her approach on the par-5 ninth to tap-in range for her second birdie of the day. That put her at 2 under.

"The first-day leader," she said. "That's way more than I could have imagined."

She needs to hold onto the lead for six more holes to make it official.

The only other players under par when play was suspended were Inbee Park (through 17), Ai Miyazato (15), and Silvia Cavalleri, who birdied her first hole before play was halted. Karrie Webb was in a group of nine still on the course at even. Michelle Wie was 7 over through 17 holes.

The best score posted among the 25 players who had finished belonged to Kristy McPherson, who shot 2-over 73. That was one shot ahead of Aree Song and seven-time major winner Juli Inkster. Before the clouds rolled in, Inkster stood for about five minutes on the fairway of the par-5, 17th hole, waiting for the green to clear before she tried a 250-yard approach shot on a hole that had been unreachable during the practice rounds.

The shot came up about 20 yards short, and Inkster settled for par.

"It's nice" to be done, Inkster said. "It's been a while since I've been on the good side of the switch. It's going to be a long day for them."

Typical of the U.S. Open, rounds were averaging more than five hours. Some of the players were surprised the USGA didn't wait a little longer before calling play, but the threat of rain and lightning never really abated. They'll need perfect weather the rest of the week to close out this tournament on Sunday.

Blanks surprising leader at John Deere

SILVIS, Ill. -- Kris Blanks birdied his final five holes Thursday to finish with an 8-under-par 63 and grab the first-round lead at the John Deere Classic.

Blanks, who played the back nine first, rolled in a 25-foot putt on No. 5 to start his late run and capped it with an 11-footer to leave him alone at the top after Canadian rookie Matt McQuillan and veteran Davis Love III had held that spot much of the day with 64s.

Another late starter, Steve Marino, also came in with a 64. Mark Wilson, who has won twice on the tour this year, and Kyle Stanley were another stroke back, while Steve Stricker, seeking his third straight title in the tournament, was part of a large group at 66.



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