Hurst grabs share of lead
By Doug Ferguson
EDINA, Minn. ó Gathering clouds gave way to sunshine, the first of many surprises Thursday in a U.S. Womenís Open that didnít go the way anyone expected, least of all Pat Hurst.
Her day had a happy ending, one last birdie for a 6-under 67 and a share of the lead with Ji Young Oh.
Annika Sorenstam twice made back-to-back bogeys and wound up with a 75, her highest first-round score in a Womenís Open since she opened with a 76 in 1992 at Oakmont when she was a 22-year-old amateur.
Hurst was chewing herself out early in her round, never imagining she would have anything to smile about in the late afternoon sun over Interlachen. She missed yet another short putt ó the very reason she hasnít made a cut since the last week in May ó and began complaining to her caddie about a vicious cycle she couldnít shake.
iI was whining,î she said. iI was being a golfer.î
Hurst rolled in a 35-foot birdie out of nowhere that kicked off a stretch of 6 under through seven holes. She looked over at her caddie with surprise and mock disgust, then kept right on rolling.
iIt just turned it all around right there,î she said.
She birdied the 16th hole, reached the par-5 18th in two with a 3-wood for a two-putt birdie, then took advantage on the consecutive par 5s on the front nine. Hurst hit a slight fade with her 7-wood up the hill to a right hole location on the par-5 second and made a 15-foot eagle, then capped off her big run with a sand wedge to another elevated green that stopped 10 feet away.
Before a gallery that grew quickly ó they were waiting for Sorenstam, who was playing behind her ó Hurst hit an 8-iron that hopped onto the fringe, rolled along the bowl-shaped green and settled 3 feet away for one final birdie and her lowest round ever in the Open.
iThere was never a point where I felt like I was going to go low,î said Hurst, whose previous best Open round was a 69.
Song-Hee Kim was another shot back after a 68, while Louise Friberg, Ji-Yai Shin and amateur Maria Jose Uribe were at 69. Laura Davies, who won the Open in 1987 and needs one more major to get into the World Golf Hall of Fame, was among those at 70.
Thirty-two players broke par, the most for an opening round of the Womenís Open since 43 players shot under par in 1999 at Old Waverly in Mississippi.
The Donald Ross design has five par 5s, which helps. The greens received a good dose of water overnight, and the overcast conditions made them even more receptive to approach shots.
Oh was in the morning group and didnít have to work terribly hard on the greens. All seven of her birdies were inside 10 feet, and four of them were inside 2 feet.
iI love hitting my drivers and short irons,î Oh said. iAnd for that, I think this golf course suits my game pretty well.î
Lorena Ochoa, who fired an even-par 73, was asked if she was surprised by the low scores on the leaderboards.
iI was just disappointed that it was not me,î she said. iBecause it was playing fairly easy in the morning. For sure, I could have finished 2- or 3-under par and been in a better position. But I think it will come back. The U.S. Open is always tough, and Iím OK where I am.î
Sorenstam has work to do.
She was 2 under through seven holes, and putting cost her again. She had a 10-foot birdie putt on the 18th that she ran by the cup, and she was stunned when her par putt swirled around the cup. She made back-to-back bogeys on the front nine and thought she could at least end her day on a positive note with a beautiful approach to 6 feet on the ninth.
She missed that one and finds herself eight shots out of the lead.
iA few putts go in, it would have been a different story,î she said. iIíve just got to be patient and get off to a good start tomorrow morning and keep it. I know Iíve got the game, and I love the golf course.î
Bobby Jackson’s mind is obviously on his current summer league going on in Salisbury, but he’ll take a break tonight... read more