PINEHURST, N.C. — Comparisons were inevitable by hosting the U.S. Open and U.S. Women’s Open on the same golf course in consecutive weeks.
Only these had nothing to do with numbers.
Stacy Lewis found comfort in comparisons with U.S. Open champion Martin Kaymer. The No. 1 player in women’s golf studied Pinehurst No. 2 on her own a few weeks ago, formulated an idea how to play the golf course, and then watched Martin Kaymer follow the script she had in her head and win by eight shots.
Just like Kaymer, she opened Thursday without a bogey on her card, a 3-under 67 for a one-shot lead over Michelle Wie.
“It was cool to see the plan I had laid out in my head. He was kind of doing the same thing,” Lewis said. “So it was nice coming into the week knowing that my plan was going to work on this golf course. … If you’re hitting the ball well enough, you can definitely run away with it. At the same time, you have to know par is a good number and keep grinding away.”
Right behind was Wie, who studied as hard for Pinehurst as she ever did at Stanford. She was at Pinehurst on Sunday to watch the final round, and later picked up the yardage books from a few friends in south Florida — U.S. Open runner-up Rickie Fowler and Keegan Bradley — and compared notes.
Wie charted her way to four birdies on the back nine for a 68.
“I did a lot of homework,” she said. “Just took the notes from both of the books. It really helped just because they played last week in similar conditions. And they’re obviously great players. I definitely learned a thing or two.”
Her putter certainly helped. Wie rolled in long birdie putts at Nos. 12 and 14, made a good par save after going into a bunker on the 17th and hit her approach to 5 feet on the final hole. It was her lowest opening round in a U.S. Women’s Open. She had started with an 80 or higher four of the last six years.
They were among only five players under par when the first round was halted by thunderstorms with 30 players who did not finish.
Kaymer, who started with a bogey-free 65 on his way to a wire-to-wire win, was among 15 players who broke par in the first round of the men’s Open. The scoring average Thursday was 75.73, about 2 1/2 shots harder than it was for the men.
Pinehurst No. 2 played 1,064 yards shorter than it did for the opening round of the U.S. Open. That didn’t make it any easier.
Except for Lewis.
“It was such an easy day,” Lewis said, referring to her game more than the golf course. “I played really, really solid, other that I had to make a few par putts. But other than that, I didn’t put myself in too bad of spots and made a few birdies.”
Former Women’s Open champion So Yeon Ryu, Katherine Kirk and 18-year-old amateur Minjee Lee were at 69.
“I think we put on a great show,” Wie said. “There are a couple of red numbers out there. There are a lot of people hovering around even par. But I think it’s great. I love that we are playing on the same stage as the men. I think it’s really interesting. It makes it very exciting.”
The show belonged to Lucy Li, the 11-year-old from the Bay Area who became the youngest qualifier in U.S. Women’s Open history. She missed only one fairway and was rarely out of position, though it cost the sixth-grader dearly when she was. Li made one triple bogey and two double bogeys, three blemishes on her card that led to a 78.
“I mean, it’s 8 over,” Li said. “It’s not bad. But I was 7 over in three holes, so that’s 1 over in 15 holes. So yeah, I just need to get rid of the big numbers.”
There were plenty of those to go around.
At least 17 players failed to break 80, including Laura Davies. She had an 82, her worst score in a Women’s Open since Cherry Hills in 2005. Perhaps more shocking was Lydia Ko, Cristie Kerr and defending champion Inbee Park, each of them at 76.
Karrie Webb and Paula Creamer were at 70. Juli Inkster, at 53 and playing in the Women’s Open for the 35th time, had a 71.
“I don’t think the course is on the edge at all,” Webb said. “I think the USGA had to be a little bit cautious. We haven’t played a tournament here with this course setup before, and it is the second week. So I think they’re probably trying to see how the course is playing, just to see where they’re at with the golf course. I think they were just sort of seeing how we handled it.”
One thing didn’t change from either week. Anything around par in a U.S. Open was not a bad place to be.
“It was a grind out there today,” Wie said. “It will probably be a grind the next three days.”
CROMWELL, Conn. — Brendan Steele shot an 8-under 62 in the morning session to take a one-stroke lead after the first round of the Travelers Championship.
The 31-year-old Californian opened with an eagle, holing a 129-yard wedge shot in the rain. He birdied six of the next 12 holes at TPC River Highlands, and closed the bogey-free round with five straight pars.
Steele finished two shots off the course record set by Patrick Cantlay in 2011 as an amateur.
Bud Cauley and Ryan Moore shot 63, and Chad Campbell, Joe Durant, Scott Langley, Eric Axley and Jeff Maggert followed at 64. Masters champion Bubba Watson, the 2010 winner, had a 67.
Two-time heart transplant recipient Erik Compton, coming off a second-place tie in the U.S. Open, shot a 74. Former Stanford stars Patrick Rodgers and Cameron Wilson made their pro debuts, with Rodgers shooting a 66, and Wilson a 73.
CORK, Ireland — Finland’s Mikko Ilonen shot a course-record 7-under 64 in the first round of the Irish Open, leaving Northern Ireland’s Rory McIlroy finished 10 shots behind.
Ilonen birdied five of his final seven holes at Fota Island.
Sweden’s Robert Karlsson and Magnus Carlsson and Germany’s Marcel Siem were tied for second at 66. McIlroy had a 3-over 74.
By wire sources