Greens looming as major factor

Stars say US Women's Open set to be won or lost on huge, lightning-fast putting surfaces

BEDMINSTER (New Jersey) • The enormous putting surfaces could pose an unusual challenge at the US Women's Open starting at Trump National today.

Three-putts will present an acute danger on the large, fast and sloping greens for the 156-player field gathered for the third Major of the year.

"The greens will be the biggest part of this golf course," former world No. 1 Lydia Ko of New Zealand said on Tuesday at a pre-tournament press conference.

"The greens are really big here... just because you're on the green doesn't necessarily mean it's going to be an easy two-putt or a birdie.

"So, I think getting the speed right, because you might be a long distance away, I think that's going to be super important."

The 6,732-yard rolling layout is framed by graduated rough, with the second cut grown to four inches. But players are somewhat accustomed to that in Majors and generous fairways should help them stay out of the long grass most of the time.

The greens, however, pose a different test.

"More than half of them stretch over 40 yards long," said championship director Shannon Rouillard, adding that they would likely be presented at a lightning-fast speed.

SPEED CONTROL IS KEY

Just because you're on the green doesn't necessarily mean it's going to be an easy two-putt or a birdie. So, I think getting the speed right, because you might be a long distance away, I think that's going to be super important.

LYDIA KO, former world No. 1, on the challenges of the Trump National Golf Club's Old Course at the US Women's Open.

Two-time champion Park In Bee, who won the crown in 2008 and 2013, said the greens could determine the winner.

"You have to avoid three-putts because you'll be putting from far away from the holes here," the South Korean former world No. 1 said.

"Some sloping greens and downhill putts can be very, very quick here."

World No. 1 Ryu So Yeon, acknowledged as one of the best ball-strikers in the game, said she could be lifted by the confidence gained with the putter over the last year while working with former British Open champion Ian Baker-Finch.

"When I first met Ian Baker-Finch I told him, 'I'm the worst putter in the world, I'm putting really bad, I really need your help'," she said.

  • FIVE GROUPS TO WATCH

  • 7.07pm: Lexi Thompson (USA), Stacy Lewis (USA), Brooke Henderson (Can) . 

    7.18pm: Park In Bee (Kor), Lydia Ko (Nzl), Feng Shanshan (Chn). 

    7.29pm: Ariya Jutanugarn (Tha), Ryu So Yeon (Kor), Leona Maguire (Irl).

    7.40pm: Brittany Lang (USA), Chun In Gee (Kor), Seong Eun Jeong (Kor). 

    Friday, 12.52am: Suzann Pettersen (Nor), Michelle Wie (USA), Brittany Lincicome (USA).

"He was like, 'You know what So Yeon, your stroke is perfect. You don't need to think you are the worst putter in the world. Your putting stroke is awesome. You just need to trust yourself and enjoy your moment on the greens'."

Ryu added that she had been her own worst enemy.

"If I look back, I was definitely a bit afraid of getting on the green because even after I hit a really great shot, (for a) four-foot birdie putt or six-foot birdie putt, what if I'm going to miss it?" she said.

"The biggest difference is I'm working with Baker-Finch and right now, I think just my attitude is much more positive. Right now I'm more focused (on) how I'm going to make it."

The South Korean will not be the only focused player amid talk of the US Women's Open being held on US President Donald Trump's Bedminster course, which was named as host for this year's tournament long before he officially entered the political arena.

Top-rated contenders all came through the media centre for the press conference with the same bland message - they will let their performances "do the talking".

"Hopefully, maybe he doesn't show up and it won't be a big debacle and it will be about us and not him," said two-time Major winner and American Brittany Lincicome.

REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

US WOMEN'S OPEN
Day 1: Singtel TV Ch115 & StarHub Ch209, tomorrow, 2am

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 13, 2017, with the headline 'Greens looming as major factor'. Print Edition | Subscribe