Alberto cannot dampen U.S. Women's Open plan for 72 holes

Nov 6, 2015; Jackson, MS, USA; General view of the 18th green while a rain storm sweeps through during the Sanderson Farms Championship at the Country Club of Jackson. Mandatory Credit: Spruce Derden-USA TODAY Sports Spruce Derden/USA TODAY Sports (File)

Alberto cannot dampen U.S. Women's Open plan for 72 holes

Golf

Alberto cannot dampen U.S. Women's Open plan for 72 holes

SHOAL CREEK, Ala. – The USGA intends to do what it has done for the 72 previous U.S. Women’s Opens: complete 72 holes and play the ball as it lies.

“You know, we have a lot of experience with this sort of thing,” said John Bodenhamer, USGA senior managing director. No USGA championship, in fact, has ever implemented a lift, clean and place policy.

Subtropical Depression Alberto dumped 2.41 inches of rain in the Birmingham area over past 48 hours, leaving plenty of mud and debris in its wake at Shoal Creek. Major champions such as Lexi Thompson, Stacy Lewis and Catriona Matthew thought the USGA would be left no choice but to break precedent this week and put the ball in players’ hands.

“I know they hate to do it,” said Lewis, “but for pace of play more than anything, just play it up and keep it moving.”

Practice rounds were canceled Tuesday, but practice facilities opened at 2:30 p.m. local time. Players stopped intermittently and hid under their umbrellas as pockets of rain rolled through. They also stopped to let the Shoal Creek maintenance crew hand-pick the range.

Brittany Lincicome said she had globs of mud on her ball throughout Monday’s practice round. Playing the ball down, she said, will bring more luck than usual into the game.

“It’s going to be a nightmare,” she said.

Mo Martin called Shoal Creek her favorite U.S. Women’s Open venue so far. The former Ricoh Women’s British Open winner joked that if the USGA has a secret vacuum, she’d be on board with playing it down.

Like many, Martin concerned about mud, particularly the landing area on the 17th, where dirt patches from a tough winter and spring have turned to muck. Bodenhamer spoke often of the “tools in our toolkit” used to combat such trouble spots.

Two-time U.S. Women’s Open champion Inbee Park never expected the USGA to allow lift, clean and place. Neither did Lizette Salas.

USGA thinks ‘differently’ than LPGA

“It’s the USGA,” said Salas. “They think differently than the LPGA.”

Even the long-ball hitters are calling Shoal Creek long, though the USGA could certainly shorten it considerably in the coming days.

Thompson said she hit only two or three wedges into greens on Monday. Otherwise it was all mid-irons, with a few long-irons into the par 3s.

“You have to keep it in the fairway because the rough isn’t super thick,” she said, “but with Bermuda it goes straight to the bottom of it.”

Even though Park be hitting plenty of hybrids and fairway metals into the greens, the World No. 1 still likes her chances.

“It doesn’t matter how long of a distance you putt from,” she said, “it matters who holes the ball, the first in the hole.”

And few do that better than Park, who recently won on the Korean LPGA for the first time and was pleased to have an unscheduled day of rest in Birmingham.

The USGA planned to operate practice rounds as usual Wednesday, with the gates open to everyone.

Lewis played 17 holes on Monday before the horn blew late in the afternoon.

“I think the layout is really good,” she said. “I’d love to play it not under these conditions. Kind of sad because you’ve got a golf course that you really have to be below the hole on, you really have to play smart on, and that’s going to kind of be taken away. It’s going to a little bit of a point and shoot.”

Matthew also played a round in Monday’s soggy conditions and didn’t foresee the USGA calling for the field to play the ball down.

“I think they’d look a little silly if they did,” she said, “unless it has some dramatic recovery.”

More rain is expected Wednesday. Afternoon thunderstorms are likely as the week progresses, with temperatures reaching into the 90s.

“But you know, not every U.S. Open has been played on pristine, perfect fairways or perfectly dry conditions or in bright sunshine,” said Bodenhamer. “We play an outdoor game. Unless we’re ready to put a dome over our golf courses, we always will.

“That’s part of the charm and the greatness of our game is that there is randomness to our game and I think that’s what makes it the greatest game, in my opinion, and there is some of that, at times a little bit more challenging than otherwise because of what Mother Nature brings. We’ll use every tool in our tool kit to address it.”

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