Notes Tough Turnaround Wie Earns Exemption

By Associated PressJuly 2, 2006, 4:00 pm
2006 U.S. Womens OpenNEWPORT, R.I. -- Golfers usually have a chance to sleep on it after a bad round. On Sunday, they barely had time for a sandwich.
Because of fog that knocked out a whole round on Thursday, the U.S. Women's Open wrapped things up with a 36-hole finish. That forced players to make a quick turnaround after their first 18 in the morning, with about a half hour to eat, change and practice before they had to head back on the course.
And all that was at stake was the third major title of the year.
Golfers finished teeing off for the third round at 8:20 a.m. and took almost five hours to finish the first 18 of the day. That had the third-to-last threesome of Juli Inkster, Paula Creamer and Se Ri Pak tapping in 31 minutes before their afternoon tee time of 1:43.
How did they spend the time? Like this:
1:12 p.m. -- Inkster makes a six-foot putt for bogey on No. 18 to drop a stroke behind the leaders. The players head for the scorer's room to sign their third-round scorecards.
1:16 -- Creamer heads into the clubhouse. Pak's caddie leaves her bag with friends to 'grab a quick bite.'
1:19 -- Pak comes out of the scorer's room.
1:26 -- Creamer's caddie drops her bag at the putting green.
1:30 -- Creamer comes out of the clubhouse in clean clothes, a pink top and skirt, carrying a plate of food and three sleeves of balls. Someone tries to chat her up but she says, 'Sorry, I tee off in like 10 minutes.'
1:32 -- Pak is eating and running, exiting the clubhouse while still chewing her food.
1:33 -- On the practice green, Pak has time for only seven putts.
1:36 -- Pak heads to the first tee.
1:37 -- Creamer's caddie checks his watch. The golfer gets a drink.
1:38 -- Inkster heads to the tee. Creamer follows; as she walks through the crowd, a woman who saw her in the morning says, 'I thought she was wearing brown and pink?'
1:41 -- Inkster's caddie shakes hands with Pak's, laughing; they had already been together for most of the previous 5 1/2 hours.
1:42 -- Inkster is announced on the tee.
1:43 -- She tees off. Pak and Creamer follow a minute later.
At least there won't be a controversy about giving Michelle Wie an exemption next year.
With her tie for third place, Wie earned an automatic exemption into the 2007 tournament at Pine Needles. that relieves the USGA of any worries that the phenom from Hawaii, who will be 17 next year, won't be eligible for golf's showcase women's event.
Wie had won enough money on the LPGA Tour to qualify for Newport this year, but she's not old enough to be an official LPGA member. So the USGA granted her one of two exemptions, a move that allowed her to skip qualifying but raised eyebrows and charges of favoritism.
Jane Park and Amanda Blumenherst, who tied for low amateur at 10th place, also punched a ticket for next year.
'That's something that I don't have to worry about, so that's great,' said Park, who shot 76 to finish at 9-over. 'Having an exemption into this tournament is an honor, and it will always be one.'
The 18th hole in the third round was more damaging than Jeong Jang realized.
She was two shots out of the lead when she drove into thick rough in front of a bunker. She blasted away and the ball took a quick turn to the right. From there, Jang hit through the green and wound up with a double bogey.
But television replays indicated that Jang hit the ball twice when trying to hack out of the weeds. The USGA talked to her about it in the scoring tent and looked at replays, but the Women's British Open champion didn't think she hit the ball twice, was told to sign for her 74 and get ready for the final round.
The switchboard continued to light up with callers, however, and the USGA went to a plasma screen and asked NBC Sports to run the tape in slow motion. There was conclusive evidence the wedge nicked the ball as she finished her swing.
One stroke was added to her score because of the penalty under Rule 14-4. Jang was not disqualified, however, because the USGA cleared her of the violation at the time she signed the card. There is a decision in the Rules of Golf (34-3/7) that allows the penalty to take effect upon more evidence.
Jang was informed as she waited on the fifth tee and was relieved to hear she would not be disqualified.
'I made that clear very quickly,' said Mike Davis, senior director of rules and competition.
USGA officials never did use the back tee on the par-3 13th at 211 yards -- not that they didn't think about it.
Rules director Mike Davis, who sets up the course, considered using the back tee for the third round Sunday morning when the wind might not be as strong. But it was plenty blustery at dawn.
'We have one woman on the committee who wanted it all the way back,' Davis said.
He drove halfway toward the green when he realized that 211 yards with wind hurtling from the left would be too much to ask.
It turned out to be a good move.
Paula Creamer, who has above average length on the LPGA Tour, hit a utility club to the green in the third round. Davis said some women wound up hitting 3-wood on the 181-yard hole.
The 13th hole hugs the Atlantic Ocean, but unlike seaside courses such as Pebble Beach there is a road between the Newport Country Club and the water.
A chain-link fence separates the course from the road, providing a pretty good view for golf fans too cheap to pay the $40 admission. Some cars slowed down to catch part of the action as they drove by; other fans made a day if it, camping out with binoculars.
Birdies are always scarce at a U.S. Open, but Gloria Park and Sophie Gustafson managed to card eagles on Sunday.
Gustafson made a 2 on the 10th hole in the third round. Park, who didn't make a single birdie in the second round, had a 3 on No. 1 Sunday afternoon for an eagle.
Becky Iverson didn't make the cut despite an eagle on the ninth hole in the second round.
Meg Mallon, who was 12 over and didn't make the cut, went under the ropes to walk with fellow two-time winner Juli Inkster in the afternoon. ... Sophie Gustafson wore a Red Sox cap for the final round. ... Thunderstorms forecast for late afternoon -- there was even a severe thunderstorm warning issued -- held off long enough for the round to finish. Any delay could have forced the final round into Monday.
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