US Womens Open in a Fog

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2006 U.S. Womens OpenNEWPORT, R.I. -- Michelle Wie stood on the balcony of the stately clubhouse at Newport Country Club, which ordinarily offers a spectacular view on a century-old golf course that juts into the Atlantic Ocean.
 
Thursday afternoon, she was lucky to see 180 yards away to the fifth green.
 
Jill McGill
Players like Jill McGill never made it past the range on Thursday.
The U.S. Women's Open dodged the rain, but ran into weather that left the players feeling even more hopeless -- a soupy fog that limited visibility to 75 yards along the ocean holes and wiped out the first round.
 
It was the first time since the 2003 Masters that the start of a major was postponed one day. The USGA could not remember that ever happening at the U.S. Women's Open, or any of its championships.
 
'It's unusual to get fog where you're delayed or you can't play all day long,' said Mike Davis, senior director of rules and competition.
 
The first round was rescheduled for Friday, followed by the second round Saturday. Davis said there would be a 36-hole Sunday, the first time that's happened at the U.S. Women's Open since 1990 at Atlanta Athletic Club, where Betsy King overcame an 11-shot deficit early on the last day to beat Patty Sheehan.
 
Wie and former Women's Open champions Juli Inkster and Meg Mallon were among those were supposed to tee off Thursday morning, and instead spent nearly 10 hours at Newport waiting to tee off.
 
'It just got worse and worse,' Wie said. 'I just took this day to relax; I just chilled.'
 
The 16-year-old from Hawaii, who once said nap time was her favorite part of kindergarten, said she dozed off for 30 minutes at one point but 'I was scared I might fall asleep and miss my tee time.'
 
Play originally was suspended 30 minutes, and then announcements followed about every half-hour. The practice range was packed with players anticipating a 3 p.m. start when word spread that the first round was called off.
 
'There's been a reversal,' Meg Mallon called out to the other players. 'The late groups go early tomorrow.'
 
She was joking, but only barely. Mallon woke up at 5 a.m. Thursday to get ready for her 7:22 a.m. tee time. She was headed back to her hotel in the afternoon so she could do it all over again.
 
'I would rather have finished today so I could have a full day of rest,' she said. 'But there's nothing we can do. I'm just thankful I didn't have to play in a driving rain if that's what was supposed to follow the fog.'
 
Davis said rain was in the forecast Thursday night, although 'we haven't been right to this point.' Newport already is saturated from 13 inches of rain over the last six weeks, and a half-dozen holes were made shorter for the first round to account for a 6,564-yard course that would play even longer in soft, windy conditions.
 
The only length that came into play Thursday was waiting around.
 
Wendy Ward was in the first group to tee off at 7 a.m., and as she returned to the range in the afternoon, she said to no one in particular, 'This is the third time I've hit balls today. I usually don't do that in a week.'
 
U.S. Women's Amateur champion Jane Park came into the media center at 7 a.m. to visit with USGA officials and kill time, and she bounced between the range, the putting green and the clubhouse.
 
Perhaps too much time in the clubhouse.
 
'I did a lot of eating, chatting, some more eating, a little more chatting, a lot more eating,' said Park, who just finished her freshman year at UCLA. 'Those lemon meringue things were good.'
 
She also caught up with Wie, Brittany Lang and Paula Creamer, her teammates from the 2004 Curtis Cup.
 
Virada Nirapathpongporn also was in the first group off the first tee, and the only bright spot was seeing her name on the leaderboard, even though there were no scores posted next to her name.
 
'But I couldn't always see the board,' she said with a laugh, alluding to the shroud of fog.
 
Even away from the ocean, the visibility was about 140 yards when the fog was at its worst. The USGA considered starting Thursday afternoon when players could see some 300 yards, but it wasn't long before the dense fog returned. Davis said players had to be able to see landing areas for their tee shots and the flag as they approached the green, and that was never the case on the back nine.
 
Wie was never too bothered, and was glad to be going home.
 
'There were always rain delays in the U.S. Amateur,' she said. 'You have to expect it in the summer in the Northeast.'
 
This is the first professional major at Newport, one of the five founding clubs of the USGA, since it held the U.S. Amateur and the U.S. Open one day apart in 1895, the first two majors held in the United States. The other major event was 100 years later, when Tiger Woods won the second of his three straight U.S. Amateur titles.
 
So one tradition will continue at Newport -- its other final days were all 36 holes.
 
Related Links:
  • Full Coverage - U.S. Women's Open