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Strange happenings on No 15

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BETHLEHEM, Pa. – I thought I’d check out some of the action on the short par-4 15th hole, see how many players would attempt to drive the green during the final round of the U.S. Women’s Open on Sunday. What I witnessed was a very bizarre sequence of events.

The first group I saw featured world No. 1 Lorena Ochoa, who, sure enough, broke out driver and nearly knocked down the pin (244 yards on a direct line from the forward tee) with her tee shot. The ball released to the back right portion of the green, about 40 feet above the hole, from where she three-putted for par.

Then things got really interesting: Laura Davies was up. You could bet she was going to go for the green. The long-hitting Davies set up for a big cut shot with a 2-iron but pulled her tee shot way, way left, almost landing her ball on the 18th green, which sits adjacent to No. 15. Davies was pin high and up against the grandstand. Because both grandstands and the TV tower surrounding the 18th hole are deemed temporary immovable obstructions, Davies was allowed to drop on the other side of the 18th grandstand, closer to the 15th hole. (Davies estimated it was about 15 yards closer.) From there, she hit a lofted pitch shot to about 4-1/2 feet but missed the putt, spoiling what would have been a miraculous 3.

The next group featured 2007 U.S. Women’s Amateur champion Maria Jose Uribe. She, too, attempted to drive the green but lost her tee shot to the right, actually hitting the ankle of the guy standing next to me, David Jemo of Weatherly, Pa. Uribe’s ball caromed off Jemo’s ankle and landed on a television cable several feet away from us, under the gallery ropes. The rules official instructed Uribe to mark her ball position with a tee, then move the cable. Uribe then replaced her ball, asked the gallery kindly to take a few steps back, and proceeded to lob her second shot to about 10 feet. From there, she converted the putt for birdie.

So there you have it: The best way to make birdie on 15 is to hit a wayward tee shot and get the rules officials involved.