Long Haul at US Womens Open

By Golf Channel NewsroomJuly 1, 2004, 4:00 pm
2004 U.S. WomenSOUTH HADLEY, Mass. -- The only shortcut at this U.S. Women's Open is from the putting green to the clubhouse.
 
Players got reacquainted with their drivers during their practice rounds, and even the long hitters found they have their work cut out for them.
 
Orchards Golf Club is 6,473 yards and plays even longer because of the moist grass, gentle bends in the tree-lined fairways and elevated greens that must be carried to certain spots.
 
Rosie Jones summed up the course in four words.
 
'Long, long, long,' she said, 'and long.'
 
The long road to finding a winner of the most prestigious event in women's golf started Thursday, with Annika Sorenstam and Grace Park among the favorites, and Michelle Wie and Paula Creamer among the record 16 teenagers in the 156-player field.
 
It won't be anything like last year.
 
The Orchards is the opposite of Pumpkin Ridge in Oregon, where the longest Women's Open course in history at 6,550 yards played as one of the shortest because of crusty, dry conditions.
 
'At Pumpkin Ridge, I hit three drivers. This is 6,400 yards, and I'm only hitting two or three 3-woods,' two-time Open champ Juli Inkster said. 'There's a big difference in hitting wedges into par 4s. But you've still got to get the ball in the fairway.'
 
No one will be hitting wedges into the last two par 4s, unless it's their third shot.
 
No. 16 is 439 yards - unusually long for women's golf - with a bowl-shaped green fronted by a creek. The 18th is among the most demanding with more water cutting diagonally through the 412-yard hole, and the two-tiered green is a steep uphill finish.
 
'The last three holes, you play those in even par for the week and you'll be in contention,' Karrie Webb said.
 
The challenging conditions are in contrast to the quiet New England charm of the course. Small winding roads through tiny New England towns that lead to the Orchards, a course built for a woman and owned by female-only Mount Holyoke College.
 
Joseph Skinner, a textile magnate, wanted a place for his daughter to play and commissioned Donald Ross to build it in 1922.
 
The clubhouse is an understated, three-story Colonial. The practice green is no bigger than a two-car garage.
 
Only when they set foot on the course do they get a rude reminder what is at stake. The Women's Open is the toughest test they face all year, and this is no exception.
 
'It closes down the opportunity for people to win,' Beth Daniel said Wednesday. 'There are very few players who can win this tournament on this golf course.'
 
That wasn't the case last year at Pumpkin Ridge, where conditions opened up the Open to just about every variety of game, and the winner - Hilary Lunke - emerged from a three-way playoff despite having to use metal woods to reach some of the par 4s.
 
Because the Orchards is playing long, the advantage goes to big hitters who are trying to capture the $560,000 first-place check from the $3.1 million purse, the richest in women's golf.
 
'This is the biggest tournament we have, and it would mean a lot,' said Sorenstam, who hasn't won the Open in eight years and wasted a great chance last year by making a bogey-6 on the final hole to finish one shot out of the playoff.
 
For the second straight year, the Women's Open looks like a day-care center. The 16 teenagers are two more than the previous record set last year at Pumpkin Ridge.
 
Wie is getting most of the attention because she has become the most celebrated teen in golf, and because the USGA afforded her special treatment by giving her an exemption from qualifying. Even at 14, the prodigy from Hawaii already has a rival in the same age group - Creamer, who finished second on the LPGA Tour two weeks ago.
 
'I'm playing good golf,' Creamer said. 'It's not my best but, you know, I definitely think I can win this year.'
 
No one doubts Wie, Creamer and 18-year-old Aree Song have the game to win the biggest tournament. Song, a rookie on the LPGA Tour, came close to winning the first major of the year.
 
About the only player being written off is Lunke.
 
Not only was Pumpkin Ridge her biggest victory, it was her only victory. In fact, Lunke has never finished in the top 10 at any other professional tournament.
 
Add to that the length at Orchards, and it compounds the difficulty. Lunke has yet to reach the par-4 16th and 18th holes in two shots during her practice rounds.
 
Related Links:
  • Full Coverage - U.S. Women's Open
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    Ortiz takes Web.com Tour clubhouse lead in Bahamas

    By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 16, 2018, 2:19 am

    Former Web.com Tour Player of the Year Carlos Ortiz shot a bogey-free, 4-under-par 68 Monday to take the clubhouse lead in The Bahamas Great Exuma Classic at Sandals Emerald Bay.

    Four other players - Lee McCoy, Brandon Matthews, Sung Jae Im and Mark Anderson - were still on the course and tied with Ortiz at 6-under 210 when third-round play was suspended by darkness at 5:32 p.m. local time. It is scheduled to resume at 7:15 a.m. Tuesday.

    Ortiz, a 26-year-old from Guadalajara, Mexico, is in search of his fourth Web.com Tour victory. In 2014, the former University of North Texas standout earned a three-win promotion on his way to being voted Web.com Tour Player of the Year.

    McCoy, a 23-year-old from Dunedin, Fla., is looking to become the first player to earn medalist honors at Q-School and then win the opening event of the season.

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    Randall's Rant: Can we please have some rivalries?

    By Randall MellJanuary 16, 2018, 12:00 am

    Memo to the golf gods:

    If you haven’t finalized the fates of today’s stars for the new year, could we get you to deliver what the game has lacked for so long?

    Can we get a real, honest-to-goodness rivalry?

    It’s been more than two decades since the sport has been witness to one.

    With world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and former world No. 1 Rory McIlroy at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship this week, an early-season showdown would percolate hope that this year might be all about rivalries.

    It seems as if the stars are finally aligned to make up for our long drought of rivalries, of the recurring clashes you have so sparingly granted through the game’s history.

    We’re blessed in a new era of plenty, with so many young stars blossoming, and with Tiger Woods offering hope he may be poised for a comeback. With Johnson, McIlroy, Jordan Spieth, Jason Day, Justin Thomas, Jon Rahm, Hideki Matsuyama, Brooks Koepka and Rickie Fowler among today’s dynamic cast, the possibility these titans will time their runs together on the back nine of Sundays in majors excites.

    We haven’t seen a real rivalry since Greg Norman and Nick Faldo sparred in the late '80s and early '90s.

    Woods vs. Phil Mickelson didn’t really count. While Lefty will be remembered for carving out a Hall of Fame career in the Tiger era, with 33 victories, 16 of them with Tiger in the field, five of them major championships, we get that Tiger had no rival, not in the most historic sense.


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    Phil never reached No. 1, was never named PGA Tour Player of the Year, never won a money title and never dueled with Woods on Sunday on the back nine of a major with the title on the line.  Still, it doesn’t diminish his standing as the best player not named Tiger Woods over the last 20 years. It’s a feat so noteworthy it makes him one of the game’s all-time greats.

    We’ve been waiting for an honest-to-goodness rivalry since Faldo and Norman took turns ruling at world No. 1 and dueling in big events, including the back nine of multiple majors. 

    In the '70s, we had Nicklaus-Watson. In the '60s, it was Nicklaus-Palmer. In the '40s and '50s, it was Hogan, Snead and Nelson in a triumvirate mix, and in the '20s and '30s we had Hagen and Sarazen.

    While dominance is the magic ingredient that can break a sport out of its niche, a dynamic rivalry is the next best elixir.

    Dustin Johnson looks capable of dominating today’s game, but there’s so much proven major championship talent on his heels. It’s hard to imagine him consistently fending off all these challengers, but it’s the fending that would captivate us.

    Johnson vs. McIlroy would be a fireworks show. So would Johnson vs. Thomas, or Thomas vs. Day or McIlroy vs. Rahm or Fowler vs. Koepka ... or any of those combinations.

    Spieth is a wild card that intrigues.

    While he’s not a short hitter, he isn’t the power player these other guys are, but his iron game, short game, putter and moxie combine to make him the most compelling challenger of all. His resolve, resilience and resourcefulness in the final round of his British Open victory at Royal Birkdale make him the most interesting amalgam of skill since Lee Trevino.

    Woods vs. any of them? Well, if we get that, we promise never to ask for anything more.

    So, if that cosmic calendar up there isn’t filled, how about it? How about a year of rivalries to remember?

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    McIlroy: 2018 may be my busiest season ever

    By Will GrayJanuary 15, 2018, 6:28 pm

    With his return to competition just days away, Rory McIlroy believes that the 2018 season may be the most action packed of his pro career.

    The 28-year-old has not teed it up since the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship in early October, a hiatus he will end at this week's Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship. It will be the start of a busy spring for the Ulsterman, who will also play next week in Dubai before a run of six PGA Tour events leading up to the Masters.

    Speaking to the U.K.'s Telegraph, McIlroy confirmed that he will also make a return trip to the British Masters in October and plans to remain busy over the next 12 months.

    "I might play more times this year than any before. I played 28 times in 2008 and I'm on track to beat that," McIlroy said. "I could get to 30 (events), depending on where I'm placed in the Race to Dubai. But I'll see."

    McIlroy's ambitious plan comes in the wake of a frustrating 2017 campaign, when he injured his ribs in his first start and twice missed chunks of time in an effort to recover. He failed to win a worldwide event and finished the year ranked outside the top 10, both of which had not happened since 2008.

    But having had more than three months to get his body and swing in shape, McIlroy is optimistic heading into the first of what he hopes will be eight starts in the 12 weeks before he drives down Magnolia Lane.

    "I've worked hard on my short game and I'm probably feeling better with the putter than I ever have," McIlroy said. "I've had a lot of time to concentrate on everything and it all feels very good and a long way down the road."

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    What's in the Bag: Sony Open winner Kizzire

    By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 15, 2018, 6:05 pm

    Patton Kizzire earned his second PGA Tour victory by winning a six-hole playoff at the Sony Open in Hawaii. Take a look inside his bag.

    Driver: Titleist 917D3 (10.5 degrees), with Fujikura Atmos Black 6 X shaft

    Fairway Wood: Titleist 917F2 (16.5 degrees), with Aldila Tour Blue 95 TX shaft

    Hybrid: Titleist 913H (19 degrees), with UST Mamiya AXIV Core 100 Hybrid shaft

    Irons: Titleist 718 T-MB (4), 718 CB (5-6), 718 MB (7-9), with True Temper Dynamic Gold X100 shafts

    Wedges: Titleist SM7 prototype (47, 52, 56, 60 degrees), with True Temper Dynamic Gold X100 shafts

    Putter: Scotty Cameron GoLo Tour prototype

    Ball: Titleist Pro V1x