OAKMONT, Pa. – Before the U.S. Women’s Open began, this seemed like a safe prediction: No golfer will shoot a 65 at tough-to-crack Oakmont Country Club, one of the world’s most difficult courses.
Somehow, it happened.
Song-Hee Kim, down 14 shots to leader Paula Creamer when the final round began, shot by far the lowest round of the tournament with a 6-under 65 on Sunday. Until then, the best round was Brittany Lang’s 69 in the first round. Kim had seven birdies and a single bogey.
Na Yeon Choi was right behind her with a 66 that tied her for second with Suzann Pettersen.
There were 13 sub-par rounds Sunday as a course softened up by Friday’s rain finally yielded some good scores. By comparison, there were only 10 such scores combined in the first three rounds, with only two in the second round.
Even with all those good scores, Creamer – the winner by four shots – was the only golfer to finish below par for the tournament at 3-under 281.
Blame the overall high scores on the hot, dry weather that preceded the tournament and baked Oakmont’s already fast greens. Credit the good scores for the two inches of rain that fell Friday and pushed back most of the second round to Saturday.
“Everybody’s more comfortable with the greens’ speed,” said Jiyai Shin, whose 3-under 68 tied her for fifth. “A couple of days ago was the huge rain, so after that rain the green’s a little bit soft. So we can hit, (take) aggressive shots at every hole, so that makes for good scores.”
Lang, who tied for fifth, didn’t want to guess what the scores might have been if the dry weather and 90-degree heat had continued all weekend.
“If they don’t get that rain, the scores would have been way higher, no question,” she said. “No question.”
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NOT HER TIME: The youngest golfer to win the U.S. Women’s Open was Inbee Park, who was 19 when she won two years ago.
Imagine someone four years younger doing it.
Alexis Thompson did, even if reality didn’t match her vision.
After her 1-under 70 on Saturday left her five shots off the lead, Thompson – only 15, but playing in her fourth Women’s Open – nonchalantly suggested she thought she could win.
Any realistic chance of doing so vanished with her double bogey Sunday on No. 1, putting her seven shots out of the lead. However, the self-confidence and poise she displayed suggested there will be many more majors awaiting her.
Thompson, known as Lexi, tied for 10th after a final-round 73 left her at 6 over for the tournament.
She’s already getting an early start on her career. Thompson recently turned pro, doing so a year earlier than Michelle Wie did. She plans to petition the LPGA to allow her to play full-time, even though the tour doesn’t permit those younger than 18 from doing so.
“She hits it a long way,” said playing partner Suzann Pettersen, who tied for second. “She’s 15 and she’s the best 15-year-old I’ve ever seen.”
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KERR-PLUNK: There was no repeat major win for Cristie Kerr, two weeks after her record-setting rout in which she won the LPGA Championship by 12 shots.
Kerr was close to the lead after starting 72-71, but a third-round 75 put her six shots out. Another 75 made certain she wouldn’t contend.
Kerr tried to make a move Sunday with birdies on Nos. 2 and 3, but she followed that surge with four bogeys during the final six holes of her front nine.
“Umm, I played terrible,” Kerr said. “I chunked the 3-wood, I topped the 3-wood. So something’s going a little haywire in my swing. I’ll work it out with my coach.”
Asked which holes gave her the most problems, she said, “All of them. Even hitting good shots, I just ended up making mistakes.”
Kerr won the 2007 Women’s Open, the last time an American won the most prestigious tournament in women’s golf before Creamer won.
“I think we can all finally stop answering, when are the Americans going to come up to the challenge?” Kerr said. “Because winning the last two majors is pretty impressive.”
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MAJOR TITLES: The major winners to date this year are Creamer, Kerr and Yani Tseng, the Taiwan native who won the Kraft Nabisco.
Creamer won the U.S. Open after tying for 42nd in the LPGA Championship. Tseng tied for 10th in the U.S. Open and 19th in the LPGA Championship.
The final major of the year is the Women’s British Open in Southport, England, from July 29-Aug. 1.