Did USGA Make Pinehurst Too Tough for the U.S. Women’s Open?

by Fredaltvater

Michelle Wie with the U.S. Women's Open trophy.

I thoroughly enjoy watching the best women golfers ply their trade every week on the LPGA Tour and I love Pinehurst. Visiting the Village of Pinehurst and soaking up the history is a truly awe-inspiring experience.

With the addition of the multitude of talented young players, the depth of the LPGA Tour has exponentially increased the enjoyment factor.

I firmly believe the LPGA Tour has one of the best products to offer golf fans week in and week out.

The U.S. Women’s Open even gives us a glimpse of the young amateurs that will be tomorrow’s stars, like Stephanie Meadow, as they get their first taste of world-class competition.

The USGA in their infinite wisdom took that enjoyment out of the equation.

Watching the best women golfers in the world struggle to make double-bogeys and triple-bogeys is no fun.

I am forced to watch that style of golf every week with my buddies and it reminds me too much of my own sorry excuse of a golf game.

Pinehurst No. 2 proved to be a difficult test for the men in the week preceding the women’s tournament. Dry conditions left the course extremely firm and fast and made the greens nearly impossible to hold and except for the outstanding performance of Martin Kaymer, it became a chipping contest.

The grand experiment of playing the U.S. Women’s Open the week after the men’s U.S. Open is intriguing and seemed like a good idea at the time, but was a USGA prepared Pinehurst No. 2 a fair test for the women?

Stacy Lewis played well on Thursday and Sunday, but struggled in between.

Golf purists would argue that all of the ladies had to play the same course and thus the most talented woman was identified.

That may be true, but it wasn’t enjoyable to watch.

Only five players were able to break par in the first round and the cut came at nine-over-par after 36 holes. Only two women were left under-par after the first two rounds and only the winner, Michelle Wie finished under par for the four rounds.

Again the USGA types would say this is exactly what they had in mind. Par becomes relevant, not just some big number with a negative sign in front of it.

Being forced to watch the best women in the world continuously struggle around the greens for nearly impossible par and bogey saves was like watching the final scene in “Tin Cup” over and over and over or being the recipient of a root canal.

It was painful.

The ladies are not as physically strong and cannot get as much height or spin on their iron shots. Consequently, their approach shots careened off the bowl-shaped greens and left diabolical recovery chips or putts from off the green.

Chip shots, bunker shots and some putts would not hold the greens and the player was forced to watch helplessly as her ball continued to roll off the other side into an even more difficult position.

Donald Ross designed his severely undulating green complexes on Pinehurst No. 2 at a time when green speeds were much slower than today and the grass could not be cut as tight. The severe slopes in the greens and the beveled edges were not as penal.

Was Pinehurst No. 2 meant to play at 12 on the Stimpmeter?

Lydia Ko even had Mark "Fluff" Cowan as her caddie at Pinehurst.

With modern mowing equipment and better agronomy the greens more closely resemble a table top or a concrete driveway. There is very little friction to stop a golf ball rolling downhill.

Like the “Energizer Bunny,” it just keeps going and going.

Only a slight amount of rain fell on Pinehurst during the two weeks of both tournaments, not nearly enough to sufficiently soften the course to accept full iron shots into the firm greens.

Stacy Lewis and Michelle Wie are the two best players in the world right now. Lexi Thompson, Lydia Ko and Karrie Webb aren’t too far behind.

Thompson and Ko only managed to break par in one round and Webb never was able to break 70 and finished T-30. Thompson was a factor in the tournament and finished T-7 at four-over par. Ko finally broke par with a one-under-par 69 on Sunday to leave her T-15 at seven-over-par for the week.

Add in the extreme heat and humidity that is prevalent in North Carolina in mid-June to the difficulty of the golf course and fitness becomes a factor as well.

Michelle Wie is a worthy champion and certainly deserves the title of U.S. Women’s Open Champion.

My only question is, couldn’t we have witnessed the same result on a slightly less difficult golf course?

 

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