OAKMONT, Pa. – Oakmont Country Club, a demanding course capable of producing scores in the 90s, is tormenting the U.S. Women’s Open golfers with a different kind of problem: temperatures in the 90s.
Jiyai Shin, the South Korean golfer who was briefly ranked No. 1 in the world following Lorena Ochoa’s retirement earlier this year, struggled badly as practice-round readings hit 94 on the suburban Pittsburgh course Tuesday.
She didn’t reply when asked by reporters if she needed intravenous fluids or any medical help, but she admittedly wasn’t prepared for weather that was steamier than that in Miami Beach.
With temperatures expected to remain only a few degrees short of 100 until Friday, Shin’s worry is how she’ll feel when she tees off that day at 1:03 p.m. EDT. She played her practice round Tuesday morning to escape the oppressive heat, but she’s scheduled to be in the middle of it for Round 2.
“I’m really surprised it’s so hot and humid,” said Shin, a six-time LPGA Tour winner. “It’s really hot and sunny all day, so green(s) and fairways are getting firm, like concrete.”
Cristie Kerr, the LPGA Championship winner by 12 shots two weeks ago, didn’t bother playing another full round in the sauna-like conditions. She played only nine holes on Tuesday and plans to play nine Wednesday before the women’s national championship begins Thursday, when the predicted high is 93.
“We teed off at 7:20 (Monday) and it took us five hours and 20 minutes to play,” Kerr said. “Mentally, I felt like I was a little fried at the end. You have to learn how to manage in this kind of weather. I think for me it’s more mentally challenging than physically, because the physical kind of leads to the mental.”
The weather is similar to that of the 1994 U.S. Open at Oakmont, when temperatures were in the high 90s before Ernie Els won in a three-way playoff.
Some golfers carried umbrellas throughout their practice rounds to shade themselves from the sun, while some of Oakmont’s historically fast-rolling greens were being watered between practice groups. The large practice green already is tinged with brown spots.
The heat affected attendance, too: There appeared to be fewer spectators on the course for Tuesday’s practice rounds than Monday’s. Normally, such crowds increase as the tournament draws closer.
The hazy, hot and humid conditions led the USGA to allow spectators to bring their own bottled water, although other beverages had to be purchased on the course.
“It’s really hot out there,” said defending champion Eun-Hee Ji, who cut 30 minutes off her pre-round practicing because, as she said, not much warming up is needed.
Several golfers related tales of putts rolling off Oakmont’s greens, which were running a brisk 14 on the Stimpmeter that measures such speed. That’s only one below the 15 of the 2007 U.S. Open won by Angel Cabrera.
Alexis Thompson, a 15-year-old who is playing the Women’s Open as her first pro event, already has been briefed what to do: drink a lot of water.
“I’ve just got to stay hydrated, that’s for sure,” she said. “Keeping my hands dry and just eating so I don’t get hungry or dehydrated. I think that’s the key out here.”
At least there’s this: Conditions are expected to be less fierce after a cold front arrives Friday and drops temperatures into the low to mid 80s for the final two rounds.