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LPGA pros question wisdom of opens at same venue on consecutive weeks

By
From page B2 | January 16, 2014 |

BOCA RATON, Fla. — Some of the top stars of the LPGA have serious concerns about what might unfold at this year’s U.S. Women’s Open. And Hall of Famer Beth Daniel doesn’t blame them.

In an unprecedented move, the USGA is staging the men’s and women’s opens at the same venue on back-to-back weeks, with the U.S. Open set for June 12-15 followed by the Women’s Open June 19-22, at Pinehurst No. 2 in rural North Carolina.

”It’s unfortunate, because it’s a big event for us,” reigning British Open champion Stacy Lewis said at the recent Morgan & Friends fund-raiser at St. Andrew’s Country Club in Boca Raton. “We’re on NBC, the big stage, and we want it to be the best. But I have a feeling it’s not going to be.”

Paula Creamer tried to take an optimistic viewpoint.

”The idea is really good. From what I hear that golf course is the one place where you can have back-to-back (events),” she said. “But at the same time it’s going to be tough; I don’t know how the logistics are going to work out.”

The logistics of any U.S. Open are a strain on any venue. The field of 150-plus players in the men’s event is typically the largest of any tournament all year, meaning players are teeing off at sunup and finishing after sundown on Thursday and Friday, with even the slightest rain delay forcing rounds to carry into the next morning.

With the beating the course takes, from countless divots on the fairways to ball and spike marks on the greens to the trampling of the rough by the thousands of spectators, it typically needs weeks to be returned to the level of staging another major tournament.

Pinehurst will have, at most, one day. And that’s if there are no rain delays into Monday or an 18-hole playoff.

”The course is going to be ripped to smithereens,” predicted Daniel, who is now a member of the Legends Tour.

”They’re smarter than me, so I hope they know what they’re doing,” Juli Inkster said.

The USGA also typically makes its Open setups as difficult as possible, growing out the rough while baking the greens. While the greens are usually at their fastest speeds on Sunday, Golf Channel analyst Frank Nobilo said recently he expects that not to be the case with the women arriving the following day.

”(Women’s) Opens are always set up more difficult than any other tournament we play in,” Lexi Thompson said. “But having it the week after the men play it, it’s just going to be more difficult. We just have to prep ourselves and be ready.”

They’ll also have to be ready to pay exorbitant fees for housing. Daniel said the women have been told renting a house in the area will cost $15,000, the same amount the men pay.

”The women can’t afford that,” she said. “They’re used to paying $3,000-$5,000. And the hotels are going to be full. Put it this way: It has the potential to be a nightmare for the women.”

Lewis expressed concern that the course will be closed to the women for practice on Monday, but USGA Communications Director Joe Goode said in an email that won’t be the case. He said USGA agronomists “will be constantly monitoring course conditions to ensure that optimal playing conditions are present for both the men and the women.”

Goode also cited an interview Michelle Wie did with the Golf Channel expressing confidence that “the USGA will do a great job.”

Inkster sounded a skeptical note when asked if the USGA had come to the LPGA to discuss these issues.

”I don’t think the USGA comes to anybody,” Inkster said. “They just do their thing. So we’ll see.”

 

New York Times

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