Mickey Walker: Plenty of positives for the USGA
In last month’s Lady Golfer I voiced my concerns about the wisdom of playing this year’s US Women’s Open on the same course as the men’s Open the following week.
My overriding worry was that the USGA wouldn’t set the course up for the women so that the leading scores would be comparable. Well, all credit to everyone in presenting the course so that it was playable, but not impossible, and so that the top scores – apart from Martin Kaymer’s, were almost identical to the scoring at the men’s. Being aware that the women don’t hit the ball as far and as high as the men, the USGA shortened the course by some 1200 yards, and also put a considerable amount of water on the undulating ‘turtleback’ greens. They got the set up absolutely spot on!
The Championship could not have been scripted any better. Before it started, 11- year-old Lucy Li from California became the youngest ever player to qualify. Lucy charmed everyone with some fabulous golf and two very respectable rounds of 78 on Pinehurst No 2. What really won everyone’s hearts was the way she conducted her press conferences, sucking on an ice lolly during one, and punctuating her often serious answers with fits of giggles. And, finally, wearing wonderfully colourful outfits.
NBC’s Kay Cochrane who gave us a daily tally of how many ice creams Lucy had consumed on the way round After missing the cut Lucy stayed on and walked the final two rounds as part of Michelle Wie’s gallery, only to be interviewed by NBC’s Kay Cochrane who gave us a daily tally of how many ice creams Lucy had consumed on the way round! If everyone who played golf could have the same attitude, the world would be a much happier place!
After the first round the World No 1 Stacy Lewis led with a near flawless 67 and, after declaring that she’d had an easy round, it was as if the golfing gods at Pinehurst had been insulted and her next two rounds of 73 and 74 put her back in the pack. Stacy did rally with a joint best-of-the-week 66 which included eight birdies to finish two shots shy of Michelle Wie.
After two rounds of 68, Michelle found herself paired with Lexi Thompson in the final group on day three. Many saw this as a rematch of the final round at this year’s Kraft but it didn’t quite work out that way, with both players not at their best, so both struggled to cope with Pinehurst’s exacting challenges. Television doesn’t do the sloping surrounds and greens that Donald Ross crafted nearly a century ago justice, so that on a couple of occasions Lexi appeared to be at best an average golfer when trying to get close to pins having missed greens.
Meanwhile Juli Inkster, aged 53 and playing in her final Open, carded a 66 to move into a tie for third with a host of others including the world’s number one ranked amateur, Australia’s Minjee Lee, as well as Northern Ireland’s Stephanie Meadow.
Amazingly, Stephanie had only got into the Championship some two weeks before having been second alternate following regional qualifying. What’s more, following her second appearance in the Curtis Cup, Stephanie was also playing as a professional for the very first time! Stephanie went on to finish in a solo tie for third, winning some $271,373! Watching Steph’s golf from the Sky studio, everyone was really impressed. Simon Holmes, my fellow studio guest at the weekend, thought that Stephanie’s swing was as good as anyone’s!
For all the stories the final accolade must go to Michelle Wie, who has matured almost beyond recognition when, during her teenage years, she was trying to compete alongside the men, making misinformed decisions inflicted by her family and advisors, and listening to everyone and anyone about her swing and putting techniques.
Since graduating from Stanford, successfully qualifying for her LPGA card, and becoming a fixture in the Solheim Cup team since 2009, working exclusively with David Leadbetter and figuring out how she putts best all by herself, Michelle seems to be a completely different person both on and off the course.
She has never been one to whinge or burst into tears, or shy away from an awkward question. It’s just that she really seems to be enjoying life both on and away from the course. Michelle has time for her friends, family and fans and seems to have a handle on what matters most to her in life.