Pinehurst plays shorter, not easier


PINEHURST, N.C. – The USGA took some of the length out of Pinehurst No. 2 for the opening round of the U.S. Women’s Open, but it still left plenty of bite.

As the second week of competition got underway Thursday, the scenes were familiar: turtleback greens repelling approach shots, and chips often bounding from one side of the putting surface to the other.

With only five players in red figures in Round 1, the message was clear – shorter did not necessarily mean easier.

“I mean, it’s tough,” said Juli Inkster, who began her 35th Open appearance with a 1-over 71. “I thought they set it up really good today. I thought they did a good job of moving a few tees up.”

While the course tips out at 6,649 yards for the women this week, it played only 6,296 yards in the opening round. One of the biggest differences was at the par-4 11th, where the hole played 385 yards after tees were pushed up 72 yards.

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“The course is set up a little shorter than I think we would have expected,” said Karrie Webb, who opened with an even-par 70. “There was quite a few tees up today, kept us on our toes. But it’s getting hot out there and the greens are drying up.”

While the USGA watered the greens Wednesday night and again Thursday morning, officials reported that the putting surfaces were averaging 12.5 feet on the Stimpmeter – in line with how fast they were rolling for the first round of the U.S. Open last week.

“It’s like some holes, where do you hit it?” Inkster said. “I want to say maybe there’s a half-dozen holes I felt like I could really go at the pin, maybe five. And then the rest you’ve just got to hit it where you need to hit it.

“I think it’s going to be really tough out there. It’s drying out. It’s firm. You’ve got to really manage your golf ball out there.”

One noticeable difference in Round 1 was on the par-4 seventh. The hole played only as the 11th most difficult hole for the men last week, averaging 4.143 strokes, and players were seen driving the green when the tees were up during the third round. With the dogleg right playing 392 yards for the women with the pin tucked in the back right over a bunker, it averaged more than half a shot harder at 4.645 – making it the hardest hole on the course – and it had not yielded a single birdie when play was suspended.