BEDMINSTER, NEW JERSEY | The talk all week at the U.S. Women’s Open has been about how un-U.S.-Open like the golf course is playing. Much like Erin Hills, the USGA chose to forgo the “massacre” model and give players a course where driver could come out of the bag and where pars or even a birdie or two could be made from the rough. Big greens have been remarkably receptive and almost no one has had to hack a ball back into play.
“The scores are definitely out there,” Lexi Thompson said after opening with a 1-under-par 71 Thursday. “But, still, it’s a U.S. Women’s Open golf course. It’s definitely challenging if you don’t hit the fairways.”
You don’t have to have Ben Hogan precision to hit these fairways, which some players lamented. “Sometimes you want it to be a little narrower, a little firmer,” world No.1 So Yeon Ryu said. Ryu shot 4-under 68 on Thursday, one of a crowd of players in red figures on a day when Trump National Bedminster was as “gettable” as ever.
“Today everything was great,” said Shanshan Feng, who shot 66 in the morning wave to take the lead. “It rained yesterday and the course was playing a little bit softer. That allowed us to hit the ball closer to the holes, easier to have birdie chances. It was also humid. But if the wind blows, this course can become very, very tough.”
New Jersey isn’t Chicago or Wisconsin so the wind isn’t expected to howl through the hardwoods the rest of the week. Gareth Raflewski, the Irish putting coach who works with Lydia Ko and Jane Park, among others, guessed that the winning score would be 11 under. I put it at 12 with the caveat that it could go as low as 14 (the winning score of the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship two weeks ago) if conditions remained as placid as they were on Day One.
A thunderstorm blew in late in the day, softening the greens even further and leaving a handful of groups to complete their opening rounds Friday. But 46 players were under par when the sun went down on Thursday. Very un-U.S.-Open like, indeed.