PINEHURST, N.C. – For the past two weeks, parallels have been drawn about Pinehurst No. 2, with many players saying it feels like a links course.
A more apt comparison may be to Royal Melbourne and the other courses along Australia’s “Sand Belt” region, one that was put forth by several players at last week’s U.S. Open. It’s not surprising, then, that the Aussie flag is prominent on the early leaderboard at the U.S. Women’s Open.
Katherine Kirk and Minjee Lee both carded rounds of 1-under 69, two of only five players to break par during the opening round. Former U.S. Women’s Open champ Karrie Webb is not far behind after an even-par 70 left her three shots behind leader Stacy Lewis.
“It does really remind me of Sand Belt golf in Melbourne, where you don’t always have a perfect lie, even in the fairway,” said Webb, who found 12 of 14 fairways in the first round. “You have to be creative around the greens, and that’s definitely a recipe to play well in Melbourne and it is here, as well.”
Lee, the highest-ranked amateur in the field this week, took only 29 putts and highlighted her opening round with an eagle at the par-5 fifth hole.
“I had a pretty good round today, considering how I hit it,” Lee said. “I chipped and putted pretty good, and there’s always room for improvement. I’m hoping for every round a little bit more improvement.”
Kirk was the first Aussie to post her score, playing in the fifth group off the 10th tee Thursday morning. She hit 14 of 18 greens, with a pair of bogeys offset by three birdies.
“It’s a good start, but they don’t hand the trophy out on Thursday,” Kirk said. “I have a lot of work to do.”