Guess who likes US Open course Pinehurst No. 2? No. 1-ranked Stacy Lewis

calexander@newsobserver.comJune 17, 2014 

— It could be a warning for the rest of the U.S. Women’s Open field:

“I love the golf course,” Stacy Lewis said Tuesday.

Lewis is No. 1 in the Rolex women’s world golf rankings. The American also was among the golfers who chirped the loudest of how holding the U.S. Open before the U.S. Women’s Open might leave Pinehurst No. 2 pockmarked with divots and the greens brown.

But Lewis said Tuesday that on a scale of one to 10, she’d rate the course a 9. While there are divots in some landing areas in the fairways and in collection areas around some greens, she seemed pleasantly surprised.

“It’s a lot better than I thought it was going to be,” she said. “When I came here three weeks ago and played, and once I saw the golf course, I became more comfortable with this whole idea and knew that it wouldn’t be as bad.

“The worst part is just those collection areas around the greens, which we all knew it was going to be, so you just kind of have to figure out how to hit those shots.”

Lewis, 29, has twice won majors: the 2011 Kraft Nabisco and the 2013 Women’s British Open. She also has two victories this year and 11 top-10 finishes in 13 events, wrestling the No. 1 spot in the rankings from South Korea’s Inbee Park, the defending U.S. Women’s Open champion.

Lewis still is a bit skeptical as to why the U.S. Golf Association decided to allow the men to play first but has accepted the decision.

“I thought they could keep the greens softer for us and then make them more firm for the guys at the end, so that’s the only reason I thought we should go first,” she said. “But they have proved us wrong on that.”

Victory splash

Moments after Martin Kaymer clinched a U.S. Open victory Sunday at the 18th, Sandra Gal raced across the green to shower him with water.

Gal is from Cologne, Germany, and said she followed Kaymer for 12 holes Sunday. This week, she’ll compete in the U.S. Women’s Open.

“I don’t know him that well, but I know we’re on the (German) team for the Olympics,” Gal said. “We grew up playing junior golf and will congratulate each other if we have a good event.

“I thought it was really cool watching him play and I was honored to be out there and witness that. It was amazing. To have someone from a country likes ours, which isn’t that big, to win on such a big stage is very impressive.”

Gal, 29, was 35th on the LPGA money list last year, earning an exemption into the Women’s Open. A former University of Florida golfer, she has one LPGA victory, the 2011 KIA Classic.

In watching Kaymer, Gal observed his course management and said she noted he usually putted from off the greens. She said she hoped to “stick with that.”

As for the victory splash, Gal said it was water.

“When he saw I was coming, it was like, ‘Oh, no,’ ” she said. “But then he was laughing.”

Book knowledge

Several players in the Women’s Open secured yardage books for No. 2 from the men, including Danielle Kang.

Kang said Dustin Johnson offered up hole-by-hole tips over a dinner last weekend. She said Johnson’s yardage book might help, but only to a point.

“I’m looking at it and it says, ‘174 yards, 8 iron.’ OK, cool,” she said, smiling. “I’m not doing that.”

Quotable

“We’re making history this week. I think it opens a door. Hopefully it opens a door for many future events like this.” – Michelle Wie, on holding the U.S. Women’s Open and U.S. Open on Pinehurst No. 2.

Back in the Open

In May, Suzann Pettersen said she had called Tiger Woods for some advice on how to play Pinehurst No. 2.

Woods was obliging, she said, but told her the renovation of No. 2 by Ben Crenshaw and Bill Coore would make for a different course, a different kind of test this year.

Like Woods, Pettersen has been bothered by back issues. Unlike Woods, who had back surgery during March and missed the Masters and U.S. Open, she won’t have to miss the Women’s Open.

Pettersen, fourth in the world rankings, said she liked the look of No. 2 and the challenge it presents.

“It looks to me more like a European course, which kind of suits my eye,” she said. “It’s nice to see other than just high rough and the lush kind of fairways. I think it’s a great look.”

Pettersen did have to sit out the year’s first major, the Kraft Nabisco.

“It was quite a bummer,” she said. “I’ve won two majors and I would really love to win the remaining three during the rest of my career.”

Pettersen, 33, won the 2007 LPGA Championship and the 2013 Evian Championship. A native of Oslo, Norway, she was second in the 2010 U.S. Women’s Open.

Pettersen said last month that she didn’t think Woods be able to compete in the U.S. Open. Turns out she was right.

Number to Know

2 Since 1991, only two players have defended their U.S. Women’s Open titles: Annika Sorenstam (1996) and Karrie Webb (2001), both at Pine Needles Lodge and Golf Club in Southern Pines.

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