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Subtropical storm causes closing of Women's Open course

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BIRMINGHAM, Ala. – The bad weather following the LPGA this spring arrived with the players Monday at Shoal Creek.

The U.S. Women’s Open faces a challenge with Subtropical Storm Alberto forecast to pass over the course late Monday night and early Tuesday morning.

“It’s a little unusual to have a named storm this early in the season and have it aimed right at the U.S. Women’s Open,” said Jake Swick, the Thor Guard chief of meteorology for the USGA.

The National Hurricane Center’s forecast cone has the storm going over Shoal Creek.

“The highest percentage chances are that we get between 1 to 3 inches of rain, starting around midnight tonight, and going as late as noon tomorrow,” Swick said. “We’re hoping it’s going to be more like mid-morning [when the rains stop], and we will get a break.

“But if the sun comes out tomorrow afternoon, more rain could pop up again at the end of the day.”

The USGA announced that it is closing the gates of Shoal Creek to the public until noon on Tuesday. Volunteers have been told shifts prior to 10 a.m. are canceled. The course will be evaluated again early Tuesday morning with adjustments to the schedule, if needed.

Swick said Birmingham has received between 2.5 and 3 inches of rain over the last week, which softened up the course before players arrived on Monday. After Alberto’s passing, Swick said the weather will improve, though late afternoon storms typical in this region are possible throughout the week.

The Shoal Creek driving range was packed on Monday morning, with players preparing to squeeze in as many holes as they could, should it turn out to be their last chance to practice before the championship begins.

“I have my notes from today, just in case we don’t see the course again before we play,” ’07 U.S. Women’s Open winner Cristie Kerr said after playing 18 holes.

Rain came intermittently in the morning and afternoon, from a light to heavy mist.

“It’s absolutely beautiful here, but it’s really wet,” Jessica Korda said. “There’s already mud balls everywhere. It will be interesting to see what happens the next two days with the weather to come.”

The USGA has never implemented lift, clean and place in a U.S. Women’s Open, but players were wondering if they might this week, with so much rain potentially coming before the first round’s start.

“I really like this course,” Azahara Munoz said. “It’s definitely a ball striker’s course, but the weather’s definitely changing it. If it were firm and fast, it would be a really tough golf course.”

Weather has played havoc with LPGA play of late. The last three events have been hit with weather delays. The Volunteers of America Texas Classic was shortened to 36 holes three weeks ago. The Kingsmill Championship was  shortened to 54 holes two weeks ago and the Volvik Championship was hit with weather delays last week but still managed a 72-hole event.

Kris Tamulis is prepared for another challenging week, bringing more than her weather gear to Shoal Creek.

“I’ve brought my iPad, and I’ve downloaded a lot of shows, movies and books,” Tamulis said. “I’m just expecting a long week.”