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'Beastly' set-up for US Women's Open has golf stars on the move

Nelly Korda's 10-over opening round was just the beginning.

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LANCASTER, Pa. – A groan came from the tee box, confirming the bad news. It was Thursday on the 12th hole at the US Women's Open and it had just happened again: someone had found a shot in the water.

The man standing to the right of the tee box may not have heard the groan. Or maybe he did, but by the time four o'clock in the afternoon local time rolled around the moans had become so long and frequent that their presence failed to register on him. Either way, he broke with standard guy-at-a-golf-tournament etiquette and pulled out his phone to take the call. Our friend was on the other line, and our friend had something to tell him.

Friend,” he said with a smile. “I'm here at the US Open, and that's it you are crazy.”

Then a little silence.

“The US Women's Open up.”

On Thursday at Lancaster CC, players battled it out on a golf course that could have tested any professional course. Like all major US Opens of old, the wind was blowing, the ground was being counted, and the scores were running high. After Thursday, the number of bogeys-or-worse had more than tripled the number of birdies. And after Thursday, the number of low-level players in very simple in the four days of the tournament it is only three.

We knew this week was going to be tough. In Gee Chun she won the 2015 US Women's Open at Lancaster CC with 8 under par, and for most of the week the top 10 players on the leaderboard were the only players to score under par. As the week began, player after player entered the podium to share the same view: the golf course was hard, it was easy to make mistakes, it was the golf course. classics US Open Test.

But we didn't know it would be like that this hard. Rose Zhang hits the green with an approach shot and spins it 15 yards back into the water. Lexi Thompson needs three chips to get her ball on the tough 10th green. Nelly Korda putting three in the water and making 10 – a ten!!! – hard. By the end of the day, Lancaster's scoring average had come in north of five over par, and the players were equal parts dejected and dejected.

“I knew as soon as I left the hotel,” said Andrea Lee, a morning wave player. “It was very nice, even in the morning when I thought it would be a little calmer compared to the afternoon.”

Lee arrived at the course to find the wind could be blowing but it was blowing straight at times, spitting pollen into the air and all sorts of unlucky golf shots.

“I just knew it was going to be a grind out there,” Lee said. “I mean, this golf course is a test. It's a beast of a golf course, really, and it's a great score here.”

The worst crosswind was the 12th hole, a devilish front par-3 with a false front facing the river dangerously. The hole played just 161 yards today down the stretch, but played anywhere from 10-20 yards longer in the strong wind. The result was an almost impossible decision for many of the best players on the course: hit your long club in the air and risk hitting it on the backside, where the short-sided chip is vulnerable (as Korda did after choosing the 6-iron and hitting it too far) rolling back into the creek; or hit a short stick in the air hoping it won't go into the water.

A “25 or 30 minute” (Korda's estimate) backup was in the hole all day because of the decision, which struck a chord with players on both sides of the ledger. But those watching from outside the wire didn't seem to care about the delay – they watched the entire afternoon with perverse glee on their faces, each successive gaffe proving more and more that this year's national championship won't be handing out a cupcake winner.

It helped that Korda, the week's head-and-shoulders favorite, bagged three in the water at No. 12 right after the tournament started. His first 10 of the day set the tone for what was to come.

“I didn't really want to shoot 80, and I kept making bogeys,” Korda said, after shooting 80 to start the tournament. “Today was just a bad day.”

nelly korda hangs her head and rubs her eyes with her hands

Nelly Korda's disastrous start reveals a major flaw in her game


Zephyr Melton

In a field of 156 players, Korda finished Thursday tied for 140th, which would lead one to argue that the US Women's Open is unfair.. And of course, if you're a TV partner or tournament organizer, it's okay. Korda is a generational talent and one of the true needle movers in professional golf, and viewers won't be watching in droves to see if she – and other long-distance stars like Rose Zhang (+8) and Lexi Thompson (+7) – can fight their way back to the cut line.

But somehow, the points of Korda, Zhang and Thompson emphasized the point. If the winner of six of the last seven women's events can deliver a moment that even the highest handicapper can relate to, then Lancaster is no slouch in its difficulty. And if Lancaster is on the equal-opportunity side, then the US Women's Open is delivering exactly what we hoped it would.

On Thursday at the US Women's Open, satisfaction didn't come in the form of a missable leaderboard or a hair-raising buzz. It comes like a moan.

Happy, devil, shining sigh.

James Colgan Editor

James Colgan is a news editor and features at GOLF, writing articles for websites and magazines. He manages Hot Mic, the GOLF media stand, and applies his camera knowledge to all product platforms. Before joining GOLF, James graduated from Syracuse University, at which time he was the recipient of a caddy (and atute looper) scholarship on Long Island, where he hails from. He can be reached at [email protected].

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