Notes: Webb talks Sebonack; Gulbis, Kane prep
SOUTHAMPTON, N.Y. Karrie Webb walked off the ninth green flushed from the heat. The “feels-like” temperature Monday afternoon at Sebonack Golf Club was a steamy 94. Webb gave the thin crowds a pass, given the weather, but wondered how many would come out to watch the first U.S. Women’s Open held on Long Island once competition began.
Webb, a two-time USWO champion, said the Jack Nicklaus-Tom Doak design didn’t favor one person. For those hitting it well, Webb said, there’s “a bit of freedom off the tee.”
As the winner of last month’s ShopRite LPGA Classic, Webb comes into the year’s third major feeling confident. She said when one part of her game goes awry, other parts have stepped up to offset the issue, allowing her to score. That can be part of the puzzle for winning a Women’s Open – managing mistakes.
• FRIENDLY FOES: Less than 24 hours after Inbee Park defeated good friend So Yeon Ryu in a playoff in Arkansas, the two were together again for a practice round at Sebonack. No hard feelings there, apparently. Both are past champions of this event.
• ZEN ZHANG: Joining Park and Ryu in that power foursome were Michelle Wie and Nicole Zhang. For Zhang, it was a heady way to start her first week as a professional. The former Notre Dame/Northwestern player quit playing college golf after the fall season to focus on her yoga-mat-bag business called Yoga People. She unveiled her product in December. Zhang plans to finish her degree at Notre Dame while playing professionally.
• PREP WORK: It’s always interesting to see how players go about getting acquainted with a new venue. Some come in weeks early, or even months, and spend days charting the land. Others, like Lorie Kane, show up Monday and walk nine holes with their caddie, granola bar in hand.
“It’s just a golf course,” said Kane, who happens to be the oldest qualifier in the field at 48. Kane won the qualifier in Heathrow, Fla., and noted that her best finish in a USWO came in 1999 at Old Waverly, when weather halted her practice to only 12 holes.
While Kane prepared for her stroll, sans clubs, Natalie Gulbis stood on the first tee with her caddie getting a blow-by-blow account of Sebonack from one of the assistant pros, who was working as a starter. She listened carefully to his enthusiastic course description and took notes, soaking up every word.
• IT'S NO JITNEY: Paula Creamer got an early look at Sebonack in May following the LPGA event in the Bahamas. She seemed relatively fresh waiting for her courtesy Lexus to arrive Monday afternoon. With players’ cars being valeted more than a mile from the course, Creamer’s locker this week will be filled to the brim with all the extras that normally stay in the trunk.
Creamer flew privately from Arkansas to Sebonack on Sunday after the final round with longtime caddie Colin Cann, and played nine holes Monday. No one on the LPGA flies privately week to week. It’s usually done with strategy in mind, helping players stay refreshed during difficult commutes or before big events.
Creamer, the 2010 U.S. Women’s Open champion, hasn’t finished outside the top 20 since 2004, when she was low amateur. Her USWO results as a pro: T-19, T-16, T-16, T-6, T-6, 1, T-15, T-7.
“The biggest thing about this course is knowing where to be,” she said.
And then, of course, executing.
• FINAL WORD: “If you want to know the winning score, ring Inbee’s caddie.” – veteran LPGA looper Shaun Clews