(Editor's note: Cristie Kerr, the 2007 U.S. Women's Open champion, is filing a daily blog with GolfChannel.com, offering her views on watching the men at Pinehurst No. 2 as the women get ready to play it next week for the U.S. Women's Open.)
By CRISTIE KERR
Martin Kaymer certainly has our attention. Watching a player run away with the lead against a strong field in a major championship is compelling, because it just doesn’t happen very often. You have to have everything going right for a long time to get that far ahead. It's something special to see.
We’re all going to be watching how Kaymer handles the pressure of a weekend at a U.S. Open. Can he keep playing good golf if he gets a bad break? And you know there are going to be bad breaks when you hit it in that “stuff,” the waste areas at Pinehurst No. 2. There’s an element of luck going in there, so getting a bad lie feels like bad luck. It’s interesting to see how players handle bad breaks. You can’t underestimate the mental toll a bad break can take, or the momentum shift it can create going into a tough stretch of holes.
I’ve had big leads and extended them, and I’ve had big leads and barely held on to them.
I had a five-shot lead going into the weekend at the LPGA Championship at Locust Hill in 2010, was up by eight shots going into Sunday, and won by 12.
I was up by five going into the final round at the Long Drugs Challenge back in 2002, but didn't play tremendously well, and only managed to win by a shot. That was my first victory.
When I had the big lead at the LPGA Championship, I didn’t feel any less pressure to go out and do what I had done for the first three days. You just have to go out and win the day, win that battle with yourself. Even with that big lead, Kaymer has to go out and try to play like he’s down. That’s the hardest thing to do in sports - to close out a victory. It will be interesting to watch how he handles himself.
Watching the U.S. Open on TV again Friday, I still can't get over how brown the course looks. We’re just not used to seeing that at a U.S. Open, and I’m looking forward to seeing it myself when I get down there on Sunday.
I’m getting asked a lot about divots and how much of a factor they may be with the U.S. Women’s Open also being played at Pinehurst No. 2 next week. My answer is that we play courses with divots every week. I’m sure I’ll find myself in a divot at some point, but I prepare for it. I practice shots out of divots on a weekly basis. With the greens as hard as they are to hit in regulation, I do have questions about the divots we may see in the collection areas around the greens. You tend to see balls gathering in common pockets, and that can create challenges.
Hitting a shot out of a divot in the fairway isn’t a huge deal, unless it’s an unusually deep divot. Obviously, hitting out of any divot is not the same as hitting from a clean lie, but it’s more of a concern around the greens. When you’re trying to get up and down, and you want to leave your ball in a particular spot, the lie is important in determining the kind of shot you’re going to hit. Watching on TV, I can’t really tell if divots are going to be a problem around the greens. I’ve watched the men putting from the off the greens this week, and I’ve watched them bump 3-woods, but I’ve also seen them hitting wedges. With the course softer than the men probably expected it to be, they’ve been able to hit wedges around the greens and have more control of their ball. They take more divots doing that.
I take pride in my putting, but I won’t be able to tell how much I’ll be able to putt from off those greens until I get there. The rule of thumb is that any time you can get a putter in your hand, it’s easier, but we’ll see. You have to read the grain around the banks of those greens. They mow in different directions at a U.S. Open. If you’re into the grain, putting may not be the best play. If you’re with the grain, putting may be the play. You make the play that allows you to hit the shot with the best speed, the shot with the most room for error.
The U.S. Women’s Open is approaching quickly, so it won’t be long before I’ll be making those decisions.