Mother Nature tears apart Shoal Creek ahead of U.S. Women's Open

Drew Hallowell/Getty Images

Mother Nature tears apart Shoal Creek ahead of U.S. Women's Open

Golf

Mother Nature tears apart Shoal Creek ahead of U.S. Women's Open

SHOAL CREEK, Ala. – It pains Emma Talley to see her home course this way. Talley became a member of Shoal Creek after graduating from Alabama and refers to it as her heaven on earth.

“I’ve seen the staff here, the members, they’ve worked really hard the past few years really,” said Talley. “They changed up some bunkers two years ago and they’ve really worked really hard for this tournament and so it’s hard to watch Mother Nature just tear it apart a bit.”

It takes a little luck to win a major, and in the case of Shoal Creek, a little luck to get one started on time. Wednesday night’s forecast called for rain, but if the USGA can somehow dodge another bullet from Mother Nature, the 73rd U.S. Women’s Open might actually start on time.

How long the rounds take playing the ball down is another story, but if a tee shot is struck at 6:40 a.m. Thursday, it will be a small victory.

After Tuesday’s practice rounds were washed out due to the remnants of Tropical Storm Alberto, Wednesday’s were delayed until 1 p.m. due to electricity. Since 10 p.m. Tuesday evening, the course received 1.62 inches of water, pushing the overall total since Sunday afternoon to 4.76 inches.

“I’ll just say it,” said USGA senior managing director John Bodenhamer, “we were a little unlucky last night. I think we had hoped for a better night, and we got worse.”

Barely playable … before Alberto

Lexi Thompson felt the golf course was barely playable during her practice round on Monday and that was before Alberto really unleashed. Even though the USGA has announced its intention to play the ball down, Thompson didn’t practice that way on the front nine Wednesday.

“I had a lot of mud balls,” said Thompson. “I wasn’t going to see my ball squirt off right in the fairway. Honestly, they need to play it up with how it is out there.”

If not, Thompson said rounds could take as much as six and a half hours.

By contrast, Lydia Ko walked off the 18th green pleasantly surprised by what she found out there.

“It’s like 10 times better than I thought,” said Ko, “and the greens are amazing. It looks like it hasn’t had any water.”

The sub-air system that’s in place on the greens and the sand-based construction makes it easier for putting surfaces to drain quickly. Extra generators were brought in to make the process even faster during Wednesday’s play.

The landing areas, however, are a different story. Ko chose to the play the ball down on Wednesday to simulate tournament conditions.

“You get some funky ones where it’s like really wet and the ball just kind of shoots of somewhere where you weren’t planning,” said Ko. “On some holes it’s potluck. It’s kind of like when you hit it and it goes in a divot, you have to play it.”

Shanshan Feng also played the ball down during Wednesday’s practice round, as did Anna Nordqvist.

“You just never know what’s going to happen,” said Nordqvist, “how much mud the ball is going to have. If you do get mud you’re hoping it’s going to be on a hole where there’s not a lot of hazards and stuff around.”

Lift, clean and place? Probably not

Bodenhamer wouldn’t acknowledge that lift, clean and place is a possibility for the week, saying he felt that the way they mark the course and how they choose to set it up could take care of some of the issues.

“We think that with some areas, we can address some of what is out there with setup and not compromise the integrity of what is the ultimate test and provide what really the U.S. Women’s Open is all about from identifying a great champion. We intend to do that.”

Latest

More Golfweek
Home