The Scot came to the United States early in the 20th century to show us unsophisticated Yanks how the game should be played. He did so by designing some of the most challenging courses in the world. Mr. Ross was hired to build a golf resort in the Sand Hills of North Carolina. Pinehurst was born. His famous No. 2 course at Pinehurst, where Payne Stewart won the mens U.S. Open two years ago, is just around the corner from Pine Needles, the home of this years womens Open.
When the 150 women in the field arrived last Monday, they realized that Mr. Ross had laid before them the ultimate test. Player after player walked off the course after their practice rounds and exclaimed, he makes you hit every club in your bag. As a par-70, Pine Needles might be the longest 6,250 yard track youve ever seen. Add in Mr. Rosss trademark crowned greens and voila, the recipe for the perfect test of golf is complete.
Pinehurst and Pine Needles are exactly the kind of courses the United States Golf Association loves for its most important championships. The USGA uses its championships to identify the best golfer. Donald Ross and Pine Needles made that possible.
Five years ago, Annika Sorenstam won the Open here by a breathtaking six shots. Only she and Kris Tschetter were able to break par. Sorenstams total of 272 was a new Open record.
This time it was Karrie Webb who took all of the mystery out of the competition. After just two rounds it was clear who would win. The Aussie was spectacularly unspectacular. Her approach to playing Pine Needles was businesslike and meticulous. She didnt attack the course, she simply played it as Donald Ross intended.
The greens at Pine Needles are so devilish, to hit them in regulation, you usually must hit your approaches to the safe spots. Anything slightly off-line or barely long or short will tumble off the putting surface, leaving the player with a next-to-impossible shot to save par. In order to hit those precise approaches, not only must one be smart, but also the player must be hitting from the fairway.
For the week, Webb was third in the field in hitting fairways and first in hitting greens in regulation. And if that were not enough, Karrie was also eleventh in putting. In 72 holes, she made all of eight bogeys. Just two bogeys per round!
Yes, this time it was 26-year-old Karrie Webb who blew away the competition. Not one other player in this field of the best players in the game could even match par for the week. Webbs worst round was her opening even-par 70. Add on a course record 65 and then consecutive 69s and the recipe for a run-away was complete. Karrie would end up 7-under par, eight strokes better than runner-up Se Ri Pak. Her 273 total just one shy of that Open record.
The best player has been identified. Donald Ross would be proud.