Golfing Gem Awaits Competitors

By Mike RitzJuly 4, 2002, 4:00 pm
HUTCHINSON, Kan. -- To paraphrase one of my favorite lines from Seinfeld, Its real, and its spectacular! The reference this time is to the golfing gem, Prairie Dunes Country Club. This 65-year-old course in the heart of Kansas is a gorgeous test of golf that will undoubtedly identify the best player.
'I just love it, says two-time defending champion Karrie Webb. This course is quite a challenge; and its fair.
There are no tricks on this par-70, 6300-yard layout. The Perry Maxwell (and son, Press) design tells the players exactly where they have to hit. If they dont execute, there is four-inch rough and three-feet tall native grasses waiting nearby. The small, undulating greens are Open-fast at 9.5 to 10 on the stimpmeter.
Yes, its a ball-strikers course, says the wide-eyed two-time U.S. Open champion Annika Sorenstam. Like at all U.S. Opens, par will be a very good score.
This course requires a lot of patience, says Juli Inkster, the winner of six professional majors. Youve got to hit it on the right (correct) side of the fairway and the wind makes that even harder.
The Hutchinson locals say a 20-mile per hour wind is nothing but a gentle breeze.
Inkster should certainly know how to play well at Prairie Dunes. In 1980, at this very course, Juli won her first of three consecutive U.S. Womens Amateur championships. The Hall-of-Fame players is just one of many wonderful story lines to follow this week.
Sorenstam has already won six of her twelve starts on the LPGA Tour this season. Shes trying to win her third U.S. Open and her second major championship of the year.
Webb is trying to become the first woman to ever win this championship three years in a row. She won her last start on tour, two weeks ago.
In Se Ri Paks remarkable rookie year of 1998, she won the LPGA Championship and then the Womens Open at Blackwolf Run in Kohler, Wisconsin. Now, she has the chance to accomplish the same feat, after winning the LPGA again just one month ago.
And on this Independence Day weekend, all of America can celebrate the ending of an era. Nancy Lopez, the most popular player in the history of womens golf is playing in her 25th and, most likely, her last U.S. Open. At the age of 45, the Hall-of-Fame player, mother and wife has deemed this season her last. Its time to say goodbye to the travel and hotel rooms and return home to husband Ray Knight and her three children.
Wouldnt it be nice if this ambassador of our game could add one more trophy to her collection of 48 the one tournament she covets most, but has failed to capture: The U.S. Womens Open Championship? Now, that would set off some fireworks!!
Full coverage of the U.S. Women's Open
Getty Images

Expired visa, helicopter, odd clubs all part of Vegas' journey

By Ryan LavnerJuly 19, 2018, 3:48 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Jhonattan Vegas thought someone was playing a practical joke on him.

Or maybe he was stuck in the middle of a horror movie.

Scheduled to leave for The Open a week ago, he didn’t arrive at Carnoustie until a little more than an hour before his first-round tee time Thursday.

“Even if somebody tried to do that on purpose,” he said, “you couldn’t really do it.”

The problem was an expired visa.

Vegas said that he must have gotten confused by the transposed date on the visa – “Guessing I’ve been living in America too long” – and assumed that he was cleared to travel.

No problem, he was told. He’d have a new visa in 24 hours.

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

Except the consulate in New York didn’t respond to his application the next day, keeping him in limbo through the weekend. Then, on Monday, he was told that he’d applied for the wrong visa. UPS got shut down in New York and his visa never left, so Vegas waited in vain for seven hours in front of the consulate in Houston. He finally secured his visa on Wednesday morning, boarded a flight from Houston to Toronto, and then flew to Glasgow, the final leg of a 14-hour journey.

His agent arranged a helicopter ride from Glasgow to Carnoustie to ensure that he could make his 10:31 a.m. (local) tee time.

One more issue? His clubs never made it. They were left back in Toronto.

His caddie, Ruben Yorio, scrambled to put together a new bag, with a mismatched set of woods, irons, wedges and putter.

“Luckily the (equipment) vans are still here,” Vegas said. “Otherwise I probably would have played with members’ clubs today.”

He hit about 20 balls on the range – “Luckily they were going forward” – but Carnoustie is one of the most challenging links in the world, and Vegas was working off of two hours’ sleep and without his own custom-built clubs. He shot 76 but, hey, at least he tried.

“It was fun,” he said, “even though the journey was frustrating.”

Getty Images

'Brain fart' leads to Spieth's late collapse

By Rex HoggardJuly 19, 2018, 2:44 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – The closing stretch at Carnoustie has famously ruined many a solid round, so Jordan Spieth’s misadventures on Thursday should not have been a complete surprise, but the truth is the defending champion’s miscues were very much self-inflicted.

Spieth was cruising along at 3 under par, just two shots off the early lead, when he made a combination of errors at the par-4 15th hole. He hit the wrong club off the tee (4-iron) and the wrong club for his approach (6-iron) on his way to a double bogey-6.

“The problem was on the second shot, I should have hit enough club to reach the front of the green, and even if it goes 20 yards over the green, it's an easy up-and-down,” Spieth said. “I just had a brain fart, and I missed it into the location where the only pot bunker where I could actually get in trouble, and it plugged deep into it. It was a really, really poor decision on the second shot, and that cost me.”

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

Spieth continued to compound his problems with a sloppy bogey at the 16th hole, and a drive that sailed left at 18 found the Barry Burn en route to a closing bogey and a 1-over 72.

The miscues were more mental, a lack of execution, than they were an example of how difficult the closing stretch at Carnoustie can be, and that’s not good enough for Spieth.

“That's what I would consider as a significant advantage for me is recognizing where the misses are,” said Spieth, who was tied for 68th when he completed his round. “It felt like a missed opportunity.”

Getty Images

Perez: R&A does it right, 'not like the USGA'

By Rex HoggardJuly 19, 2018, 2:28 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Pat Perez didn’t even attempt to hide his frustration with the USGA at last month’s U.S. Open, and after an opening-round 69 at The Open, he took the opportunity to double down on his displeasure.

“They (the R&A) do it right, not like the USGA,” Perez said of the setup at Carnoustie. “They've got the opposite [philosophy] here. I told them, you guys have it right, let the course get baked, but you've got the greens receptive. They're not going to run and be out of control. They could have easily had the greens just like the fairway, but they didn't. The course is just set up perfect.”

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

Concerns at Shinnecock Hills reached a crescendo on Saturday when the scoring average ballooned to 75.3 and only three players broke the par of 70. Of particular concern for many players, including Perez, were some of the hole locations, given how fast and firm the greens were.

“The U.S. Open could have been like this more if they wanted to. They could have made the greens a bit more receptive,” Perez said. “These greens are really flat compared to Shinnecock. So that was kind of the problem there is they let it get out of control and they made the greens too hard.”