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Wet Week on Tap at Womens Open

2006 U.S. Womens OpenNEWPORT, R.I. -- Newport Country Club is dripping with history.
The links-style course hugs the Atlantic shoreline and is such a throwback that it still doesn't have an irrigation system, relying on Mother Nature to decide whether it plays firm and fast or long and lush. The first major champion in the United States was crowned at Newport in 1895, and the club is one of the five charter members of the USGA.
But on the eve of the U.S. Women's Open, the first professional major at this site in 111 years, history gave way to a bleak forecast: Newport is simply dripping.
The course has received more than 13 inches of rain during the last six weeks, including 3 1/2 inches last weekend. Local fire companies have pumped more than 3 million gallons of water off the course, and some bunkers still resemble small, dirty pools.
'It's going to be a wet, long U.S. Open,' Mike Davis, the USGA's senior director of rules and competition, said Wednesday.
And that might play into hands of Michelle Wie, a young star with another chance to make history at one of oldest clubs in America.
The 16-year-old star from Hawaii is trying to become golf's youngest major champion, although this is nothing new. Wie has been competing in majors since she was 13 and played in the final group of the Kraft Nabisco Championship as an eighth-grader. She has been getting closer to an elusive trophy with every major she plays.
Wie was tied for the lead going into the final round of the U.S. Women's Open a year ago until Cherry Hills sent her crashing to an 82. She had a 25-foot chip for eagle to win the Kraft Nabisco, then missed a 10-foot birdie putt coming back to fall one shot out of a playoff. Three weeks ago at the LPGA Championship, she missed two putts inside 8 feet on the final three holes and narrowly missed another playoff.
'I dream about winning tournaments, making history, and I do think about that kind of stuff,' Wie said. 'But I just can't think about it when I'm playing. I'm very focused. I'm just thinking about the shots that I have to hit, what I have to do for my part, and I'm just going to try my hardest and play my hardest.
'If I end up winning, great,' she added. 'If I don't, I want to end this week knowing that I played my hardest.'
Expectations must be tempered for anyone at the U.S. Women's Open, the biggest event in women's golf.
Morgan Pressel had high expectations a year ago at Cherry Hills, tied for the lead and marching toward her ball in the middle of the 18th fairway. She looked up at the green in time to see Birdie Kim hole a 30-yard bunker shot for birdie to win.
'I was definitely disappointed and it was a letdown because I felt like I was ready,' said Pressel, who turned 18 last month and graduated from high school. 'But you realize that happens in sport.'
Perhaps the biggest surprise of all is Annika Sorenstam.
She won back to back at the U.S. Women's Open early in her career, but as Sorenstam took her game to unprecedented heights on the LPGA Tour by winning 44 times in the last five years, she has gone a decade without winning this event. She has hit the wrong shot at the wrong time, and on two occasions, someone else simply played better.
Sorenstam was a late arrival to Newport, and didn't play her first practice round Tuesday. She played Wednesday, and perhaps it was a sign of the tough conditions expected this week. The wind never died, gusting to 20 mph under gray, damp skies.
'I love the fact that course is quite long. I like the fact we're going to get some wind,' Sorenstam said. 'I think it's going to be a great course for this type of a championship.'
The course will play at least 6,564 yards, making it the longest at sea level for the Women's Open. The wet conditions will make Newport feel even longer, and perhaps play into Wie's powerful game.
She was ripping her driver long and straight during a nine holes of practice Wednesday morning, hitting middle irons when those playing with her had to rely on fairway metals.
The USGA had a computerized launch monitor set up behind the 15th hole. Players teed off and then hurried to check their numbers, such as ball speed and launch angle, that showed up on the screen.
Wie frowned when she saw her ball speed at 150 mph -- about 15 mph below her average -- but swing coach David Leadbetter smiled and told her that this week wasn't only about pounding the ball.
'Save that for the 84 Lumber,' he said, referring to the PGA Tour event at Nemacolin Resort in western Pennsylvania where Wie will play in September.
She has played as much against the men as the women this year with mixed results.
Wie made her first cut against the men at the SK Telecom Open on the Asian tour, and had a fighting chance to qualify for the U.S. Open at Winged Foot until her putter betrayed her at Canoe Brook. In her three LPGA events, she has had birdie putts on the last hole to get into a playoff, missing them all.
Wie was asked which would be better -- making the cut on the PGA Tour or winning on the LPGA Tour.
'I would love to win an LPGA major or a tournament,' she said. 'And I would love to make the cut in a men's tournament. I'm not sure which would be a bigger impact on me because it hasn't happened to me before. I'll do both, and I'll tell you which is better.'
Related Links:
  • Full Coverage - U.S. Women's Open
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