Blackwolf Run will be stern test for U.S. Women's Open

By Randall MellJuly 3, 2012, 1:00 pm

KOHLER, Wis. – Meg Mallon remembers crossing paths with architect Pete Dye after playing his Blackwolf Run design at the U.S. Women’s Open in 1998.

Mallon opened the championship with a nightmarish quintuple-bogey 9.

She shot 77-76 and missed the cut.

“Pete Dye comes up to me at a dinner function there,” Mallon said. “And he says, 'Meg, if I would have taken a 9 on the first hole, I would have shot myself.’”

Mallon didn’t miss a beat.

“Actually, Pete,” she said. “I was thinking about shooting you.”

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The U.S. Women’s Open makes its return to Blackwolf Run this week. While Dye and Blackwolf Run owner Herb Kohler survived without bullet-proof vests in ‘98, there were lots of casualties, figuratively.

An image remains seared into the memories of folks who were sitting around the 18th hole on the Friday of that U.S. Women’s Open.

Players don’t normally declare a winner halfway through the championship, but they did that year.

Nancy Lopez and Jane Geddes joined Mallon marching to the 18th hole while waving towels like white flags at the end of their putters. They all missed the cut, but it might be the defining image of the championship.

Yes, Se Ri Pak claimed the U.S. Women’s Open trophy that year, but Blackwolf Run was the winner.

That course whipped everyone.

“It was a surrender,” Mallon said of the white flags. “It was a spontaneous thing. It was the most uncomfortable I’ve ever been playing golf, and we were just exhausted. We decided we had to do something.”

Pak prevailed in a playoff despite posting weekend scores of 75-76.

How many major championship winners claimed their titles playing the weekend in 9 over par?

Pak got into a playoff with Jenny Chuasiriporn with a 6-over-par total.

That remains the highest 72-hole score of a winner in a women’s major in 36 years.

The week was the women’s version of the Massacre at Winged Foot.

“I remember some of the player reactions after Jenny Chuasiriporn made that long putt at the 72nd hole to force a playoff,” Mallon said. “It was, `Oh my God, they have to play that course again.’”

As picturesque as it is wicked, Blackwolf Run is golf’s Enchanted Forest.

There is magic there, as Pak proved inspiring an entire nation of future South Koreans with her victory. There just might be some black magic there, too. This is a golf course that broke the hearts and wills of the game’s toughest players.

“I was afraid of the golf course,” Lopez says today. “It intimidated me.”

This was back when Lopez was still a factor in majors, just a year after she finished runner-up to Alison Nicholas in the U.S. Women’s Open. Lopez, though, arrived at Blackwolf Run knowing she was nearing a last chance to win her first U.S. Women’s Open.

David Albrecht, the head professional at Blackwolf Run, was there at the 18th watching Lopez wave her white towel.

“Nancy Lopez was definitely the crowd favorite,” Albrecht said. “She is such a sweet lady. She came in early for practice rounds, and she was so nice to everyone who reached out to her. She was like Arnold Palmer that way. So many people were there wanting to see her win. So, it was somewhat sad to see her miss the cut.”

Lopez can laugh now about how tough Blackwolf Run was.

At that first hole in ’98, while watching Mallon try to blast her way out of the forest, Lopez’s caddie could see some angst on Lopez’s face.

“Can I get you something?” he asked her.

“Two valium,” Lopez answered.

How tough was the course? Dottie Pepper said she cried in a shower after one round, and she ended up tying for 11th.

Kohler is confident Dye’s design will test skill as well as temperament again this week.

“I was intrigued by a man that could mess with the minds of the professional, get them agitated, and get them off their game just a little bit.” Kohler said.

The course will play this week to 6,984 yards, more than 500 yards longer than it played in ’98.

While it won’t be the longest U.S. Women’s Open venue in history, it will be the longest played at sea level. The Broadmoor in Colorado played to a record 7,047 yards last year, but the high altitude didn’t made it feel shorter.

The USGA is cutting the women a break this time around Blackwolf Run. It will play as a par 72 instead of a par 71. The seventh hole will play as it was naturally designed, as a par 5 instead of a par 4.

That doesn’t mean the test won’t still be fierce. Kohler ordered a renovation of Blackwolf Run’s grasses in 2009 and ‘10. With new A4 bentgrass on the greens and Memorial bentgrass on the fairways, the course can play a lot firmer and faster, given Mother Nature’s cooperation.

“This will definitely be the toughest test of the women’s year,” said the USGA’s Ben Kimball, director of the U.S. Women’s Open.

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Thomas donating to hurricane relief at East Lake

By Jason CrookSeptember 19, 2018, 9:20 pm

Much like in years past, Justin Thomas is using his golf game to help with relief of a natural disaster.

The world No. 4 announced on Twitter Wednesday that he’d be donating $1,000 per birdie and $5,000 per eagle at the Tour Championship to a charity benefiting the victims of Hurricane Florence, which ravaged the Carolinas last week.

At a fan's suggestion, Thomas, who has averaged 4.35 birdies per round this season, also pledged to donate $10,000 for a hole-in-one.

Hurricane Florence made landfall on Friday just south of Wrightsville Beach, N.C., and has left much of the area flooded and without power. At least 37 people have died in storm-related incidents.

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Rose realizes his No. 1 ranking is precarious

By Rex HoggardSeptember 19, 2018, 8:18 pm

ATLANTA – Asked how he would like to be identified when he was finished playing golf, Justin Rose didn’t hesitate – “major champion, Olympic gold medalist, world No. 1.”

He’s had only a week to enjoy the last accomplishment, but the Englishman is aware of what it means to his career to have finally moved into the top spot in the Official World Golf Ranking.

“It's a moment in your career that you always remember and cherish,” said Rose, who overtook Dustin Johnson with his runner-up finish two weeks ago at the BMW Championship.

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Rose said he took some time last weekend with family and friends to relish the accomplishment and will play his first event this week at the Tour Championship as the world’s best, but he also understands how tenuous his position atop the ranking is at the moment.

“I accept it's really tight up top. It could easily switch this week,” he said. “I just feel that if I go to [No.] 2 or 3 this week, if Dustin and Brooks [Koepka] both play well, I have an opportunity the week after and British Masters, and going to China and Turkey, there's going to be opportunities to get back there.”

Johnson, Koepka and Justin Thomas could unseat Rose atop the ranking this week depending on their finishes at the Tour Championship.

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Likely ROY Wise not looking past 'special' East Lake

By Rex HoggardSeptember 19, 2018, 8:05 pm

ATLANTA – Much like the PGA Tour Player of Year Award, voting for the Rookie of the Year Award is very much a rubber stamp this season.

Brooks Koepka is a lock to win the Jack Nicklaus Trophy after winning two majors - the U.S. Open and PGA Championship - despite missing a portion of the season with an injury. Similarly, Aaron Wise, who won the AT&T Byron Nelson, is the only rookie this year to advance to the Tour Championship, which is normally the threshold players use for voting for Rookie of the Year.

“I knew with the rookie class that we had it was going to be tough, and the players still have to vote but it’s definitely something that was important to me,” he said on Wednesday at East Lake. “My focus is just finishing strong this week and giving them a reason to vote for me.”

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For Wise, who had four top-10 finishes this season and begins the week 21st on the FedExCup point list, the chance to win the award is gratifying, but being among the best 30 players on Tour, and securing his spot in all four major championships next season, is an accomplishment worth savoring.

“To win Rookie of the Year you have to have a solid season, but to make it to East Lake, so many guys don’t get this far. You really have to have a special season and this is really special,” Wise said.

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Stanford returns home to share Evian celebration

By Randall MellSeptember 19, 2018, 5:33 pm

Angela Stanford’s eyes welled with tears when her flight touched down at Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport in her return from winning the Evian Championship.

When she lands from the south, as she did Monday, she always looks for the towering grain elevators in her Saginaw hometown. She also always looks for downtown Fort Worth’s skyline.

She got teary with the replica of the Evian Championship trophy in her carry-on in the luggage bin above her seat, knowing she wasn’t bringing it home just for her.

But for her mother, Nan, who’s battling a second bout with breast cancer.

For her father, Steve, who got her started in the game.

For other family and friends.

For Shady Oaks, the club Ben Hogan made famous, where she is a member.

And for TCU, her alma mater.

She realized how empty she felt in so many returns from major championships.

She’s 40 now.

She won in her 76th try in a major.

For so long, Stanford believed she had what it took to win a major, but that only made the string of disappointments harder.

“So I remembered what it felt like coming home from so many disappointments, but not this time,” Stanford said. “This time I got to bring something home for everyone to see.”

When Stanford got off the plane, her parents were among a group of family and friends waiting to greet her. So was her TCU coach, Angie Larkin, who brought along the Horned Frogs mascot, Superfrog.

Tour pros Kristy McPherson, Dori Carter, Kendall Dye and Emory University coach and former tour pro Katie Futcher were all in Fort Worth helping Stanford celebrate.

“It was pretty cool,” Stanford said. “Of course, I asked them all if they wanted to see the trophy.”

She pulled it out of her carry-on and never put it back.

“It’s a heavy trophy, but I told them I’m carrying this everywhere,” Stanford said.

There was a celebration dinner with family and friends Monday night, and another celebration with friends on Tuesday.

“I think it’s just the start of many celebrations with more friends to see,” Stanford said.

Stanford went to work with a new swing coach about a year ago, Todd Kolb, from Sioux Falls, S.D. In her flight home, she thought about how grateful she was for all the help poured into her game, not just the good work Kolb is doing, but the foundation important figures in her life helped to lay. She thought about the lessons and wisdom Amy Fox, Mike Wright and Joe Hallett passed along.

“I’m still using things I learned from my first instructor,” Stanford said. “Amy Fox is a huge reason I’m playing on tour. Mike Wright is a huge reason why I’ve won on tour. Joe Hallett helped me navigate through a tough time in my career.

“They were all important to my winning Sunday. They all gave me building blocks, and they’ve all helped lay the foundation to what I’m learning now from Todd.”

Stanford said being able to share her gratefulness made her return home special.

“It’s been a whirlwind,” she said. “It’s been everything you could imagine it would be.”