OAKMONT, Pa. – A light pre-tournament practice schedule hasn’t hurt Natalie Gulbis at the U.S. Women’s Open. A bad back kept her from playing a practice round this week, and she was only able to hit balls on Wednesday.
“I wouldn’t have teed it up if I didn’t think I could go out and play well,” Gulbis said.
She hit plenty of good shots Friday, making six birdies. But she also had a triple bogey, double bogey and three bogeys. It all added up to her second consecutive 73.
Gulbis isn’t playing Oakmont blind, though. She visited the course several weeks earlier to play a handful of practice rounds.
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Two short-game changes are paying off well for Christina Kim at the U.S. Women’s Open, where she is T-9 at 2-over 144. Kim took a putting lesson from Ron Stockton, son of Dave Stockton, the Monday before last week’s Jamie Farr Owens Corning Classic.
“I’ve been in a completely different world when I’m standing over a putt,” Kim said. “As opposed to expecting it to go in the hole by sheer will, now I feel like I’ve got the ability and the stroke to make it go in the hole.”
Kim also has been using her 56-degree wedge as her go-to short-game club. She usually relies on her 60-degree wedge for most of her greenside shots.
“With the thickness and the heaviness of the rough that we have this week, it’s been working magically,” Kim said. “My dad’s been telling me to do that for about nine years now and I’ve been refusing, so he’ll be happy to hear that.”
Kim had never worked with Stockton before last week’s session. She went on to a runner-up showing at the Farr. Kim said she used to be a wristy putter, but Stockton told her to feel like the putter’s shaft moves toward the hole throughout the stroke.
“I kind of feel like I’m shoving everything, but they’re rolling on the right line now,” Kim said. “It was instrumental to me playing well last week.”
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How hard was Oakmont playing Friday morning, before the rains came? Stacy Lewis’ 1-under 70 was the only sub-par round of the morning wave, and she had to hole a 6-iron to do it.
At 3-over 145 (75-70), Lewis is in good shape halfway through the championship.
Lewis holed a 6-iron from 160 yards for eagle on the par-5 fourth hole.
“It drew in there, but I was trying to go right of the flag,” Lewis said. “Most good shots out here are (accidents).”
Lewis bogeyed the next hole, but closed with birdies on Nos. 6 and 9, capping her round with a 10-foot birdie putt. “(The eagle) got me swinging more positively,” she said. “It got me to relax and realize that if you make a good golf swing, it’s going to go where you want it.”
The scoring average was 77.6 for the players that completed play before Friday’s weather delay, a half-shot higher than for Thursday’s first round.
Lewis’ first-round 75 was marred by a triple bogey on the par-4 second hole. She hit her tee shot in the hazard and four-putted.
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Amateur Kelli Shean couldn’t fall asleep after Thursday’s impressive first round at the U.S. Women’s Open. Hard to blame her. Her 1-under 70 left her just one shot off Brittany Lang’s lead.
“I got to bed almost 2:00 and woke up at 4:30,” she said. “I wanted to play. I really did. I couldn’t wait to come back out here.”
Shean said she used Facebook and texted her mom and brother as she lay in bed.
She couldn’t keep the magic going Friday, shooting 79. At 7-over 149, she’s virtually guaranteed to make the 36-hole cut at Oakmont.
“I’m an amateur,” Shean said. “It’s not like I can take any money home or anything like that, so I’m just going to go out there and take all the experience and the memories as the prize.”
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Alexis Thompson, 15, will likely make the cut in her first U.S. Women’s Open after shooting 73-74.
Thompson was even par for her first eight holes Friday – and moving up the leaderboard – despite hitting one fairway up to that point. But she played her next three holes in 4 over, a stretch that put her closer to the cut line than the lead.
“I just said, ‘We need to start playing golf now,’ ” Thompson said. She played her final seven holes in 1-under par. Thompson hit wedge to 2 feet on the 141-yard, par-3 sixth hole, then followed a bogey at the 233-yard, par-3 eighth with a birdie on the par-5 ninth. Thompson hit a greenside bunker shot to 1 foot to set up the closing birdie.
Thompson averaged exactly 300.0 yards on her two measured drives Friday. Despite hitting just five of 14 fairways, she hit 13 greens.
“I was all over the place,” Thompson said.
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Kimberly Kim made an impressive birdie to finish her round Friday, but it completed a disappointing pro debut. Kim’s third shot to the par-5 ninth bounced off the flagstick and finished about 4 feet away. She shot 79-84 to finish at 21-over 163.
“I don’t think I was doing anything too bad, but the greens were really tough,” said Kim, the 2006 U.S. Women’s Amateur champ.