5 Things: Annika on Li; Lexi slips; more
PINEHURST, N.C. – Stacy Lewis posted a 67 early Thursday and didn't look back, but Michelle Wie got within a stroke late by birdieing her last hole of the day.But plenty of other notables, from Kraft Nabisco champion Lexi Thompson to Solheim Cup captain Juli Inkster, took to Pinehurst No. 2 with mixed results.
Here are 5 Things to know Thursday's first round in Pinehurst.
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1. DIDN'T PICK UP A CLUB UNTIL 12: Annika Sorenstam has won 10 majors, her second coming just down the road at Pine Needles Lodge and Golf Club when she captured her second consecutive U.S. Women’s Open in 1996.
PHOTOS: Lucy Li, 11, at U.S. Women's Open
A look at 11-year-old Lucy Li as she attempts to take on Pinehurst No. 2 before the U.S. Women's Open.
Sorenstam, 43, is retired now, but remembers when she started playing golf. It was not until she was 12, a year younger than 11-year-old Lucy Li – who shot a 8-over 78 at Pinehurst No. 2 in her first round of the U.S. Women’s Open.
“I cannot imagine what it's like to play on this golf course in the biggest championship and doing a press conference,” Sorenstam said watching Li dazzle the reporters all the while holding on to a ice cream which she would lick occasionally. “I mean, she's very impressive. I think she's cute, a lot of persona, and I think she can play. What is she, 5'3"? And weighs 100 pounds?"
What also impresses Sorenstam is the fact that the lights, the cameras and the golf course were unable to intimidate or change the carefree girl, who seems to be oblivious.
“She's 11 and she's acting 11 but she's not playing like 11,” Sorenstam said. “She seems to be a natural. She just started. She doesn't complicate things. She just hits it. She doesn't take herself too seriously,”
Clearly we could all learn from the humility of Li.
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2. RETIRED, BUT STILL ALIVE: At 53, Juli Inkster has decided to call this her last U.S. Women’s Open. But the golfing gods are either unwilling to let the eight-time major champion go quietly or they are playing with the emotions of those fans of Inkster.
Either way, Inkster showed in Thursday’s first round that she is not ready to step away shooting a 1-over 71, her best round since a final-round 70 at the Women’s Open on the Old Course at Saucon Valley Country Club in 2009.
“You know what, I actually played pretty good,” Inkster said of Thursday's performance, which included three birdies and four bogeys. “I drove the ball very well. I hit a lot of good iron shots. I putted it OK; made some good par putts, 4 or 5 footers. “
Inkster had one bad shot when she was on the converted par-4 16th hole and was between a 5-iron and 4-rescue and choked up on the rescue, hitting it in the bunker and failing to get up and down.
Only one bad shot a round could put Inkster on the leaderboard after four days.
“It would be nice,” Inkster said of being in the mix Sunday. “But I don't think it's important. I'm really – I'm OK with the decision. I like this golf course, because I think it weeds a lot of players out. This is my type of golf course. If I keep playing the way I'm playing, I think I've – Stacy (Lewis) is playing unbelievable. So I don't know if anybody can catch her. But I feel like I can have a good tournament.”
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3. NOT THE SAME GOLF COURSE: Like Augusta National, Pinehurst No. 2 played different Thursday versus earlier in the week. The difference was very noticeable to Lexi Thompson, with many of the tees moved up and in some ways negating her length advantage.
“I didn't really play the holes that they moved up very well,” Thompson said. “I didn't hit very good wedge shots into the holes, which kind of got me on a few of the holes. It's the same for everybody. You know, the greens are hard enough even with wedge shots in, you still have to think about the yardage you want and where you want to place it on the green.”
Thompson’s 1 over 71, was mainly due to poor iron play where she admitted to being a little bit off.
With a early tee time on Thursday, Thompson will have a late and very warm tee time in Friday’s second round, but also gave the Kraft Nabisco champion time to work on her iron game.
“I would say it's just off a little bit,” Thompson said of her iron play. “It wasn't about adjusting because I hit my driver perfect. I drove it very well today. But just off on my irons a little bit, maybe just not trusting the shots because aiming away from pins I'm not quite used to. But I'll work on it a little bit after today and just go into tomorrow confidently.”
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4. FROM DOWN UNDER: Many amateurs made appearances on the leaderboard, with Marissa Chow getting to 4 under and leading the Women’s Open. By the end of the day, only one amateur, Minjee Lee, was left.
Lee, born and raised in Perth, Australia, is making her first appearance in the Women’s Open. She has had success this year on the big stage, with a T-11 at the Australian Open and a T-24 at the Kraft Nabisco, the first major of the LPGA season.
In those eight rounds, Lee has a scoring average of 71.125, making her opening 1-under 69 all the more impressive.
“I came in with no expectations, really,” Lee said. “I just wanted to have fun and play good golf. Yeah, just whenever you come here -- whenever you play a professional tournament you want to get low am and just play good.”
Lee will have a quick turnaround, playing the late/early rotation, but seems to have the attitude to not only deal with the short rest, but how to deal with the Ross No. 2 design that has made life miserable for some players so far.
“I had a pretty good round today, I guess, considering how I hit it,” Lee said. “I chipped and putted pretty good. And there's always room for improvement. I'm hoping for every round a little bit more improvement.”
One thing Lee is not lacking in is confidence.
“I feel like I'm playing like my B game,” Lee said. “I guess I feel like I can contend with the girls. If I play well, then I can definitely win on the Tour.”
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5. SHORT SHOTS: Defending Champion Inbee Park lost her World No. 1 ranking last month; now she is looking at missing her second cut in four tournaments after a 6-over 76, tying her highest round of the 2014 season. … After the first round of the men's U.S. Open last week, 15 players were under par; after the first round Thursday, nine players were under par. … In Michelle Wie’s previous six opening rounds at a U.S. Women’s Open, she has a scoring average of 79.5, didn’t break 80 four times and her best score was a 74 in 2012 at Blackwolf Run; consider that jinx behind her after a 68. … Thirty players hadn't finished the first round when play was called for the day; they'll finish up at 6:45 a.m. when the first groups of the second round head out as well.