2008 U.S. Women's Open


Fourth Round Running Updates
And that's it for another year, folks. To all of you who read and sent messages, thank you sincerely for your patronage. In case you have an interest in the Senior Open, we'll be blogging from there too.

On a final note, nice to see Inbee win. This was a special one because she's a super kid who I've seen grow up. Hopefully her titles inspires more Koreans the same way Se Ri Pak did.

Take care.

Ken


One For The Books


Edina, Minn. - She was groomed for this moment. She just did it in incremental steps.

When Inbee Park won the 2002 U.S. Girls' Junior at 14 years old, an interpreter was needed because the shy prepubescent couldn't speak any English.

Her family left Korea because they wanted her to excel at golf. Nearly five years later, mission accomplished on two fronts. She can speak near fluent English now and can add women's most prestigious golf title to her resume. Park, 19, became the youngest champion ever in a Women's Open Sunday at Interlachen Country Club, carding a 9-under-par 283. She beat runner-up Helen Alfredsson by four strokes. She becomes the fifth Girls' Junior champion to win a Women's Open.

Inbee, which means 'queen' in Korean, rules all of women's golf, at least for a day.

"I still can't believe I did it," said Park. "Everything has happened so quick, it's scary."

Her junior career was a decorated one in which she earned five USGA medals. Now she has a sixth. She credited Se Ri Pak for introducing golf to her by way of winning the 1998 U.S. Women's Open. Two days after seeing her win on television, Park picked up the game. Asked what she thought Pak has meant to her, she said, "Not just for me but also for a lot of other Korean golfers."

Later in the media center, she went a step further. "I would really like to thank Se Ri for what she did for Korean golf."

Park remembered waking up about 3 a.m. in Korea to her parent's screams of delight. Pak had made a putt, which rattled Park from her slumber. She decided to stay awake and watch the championship until its completion.

Instructors were introduced, and when Park felt comfortable enough, her parents thought it would be more helpful for her game to grow if she played against better talent in the U.S.

When she tapped in her final putt, she was doused with beer. In all, she took 26 putts while striking 56 percent of her greens.

Park said she didn't realize she was the youngest to win and added that the imminent victory hadn't affected her until walking up the 18th fairway. In the back of her mind, she knew she had a chance.

"I started thinking about it on the 15th hole when I was three strokes ahead of everyone," said Park.

Park's To Lose Now

Edina, Minn. - Inbee Park, 19, hasn't wavered at all. She parred her 17th hole to take a five-stroke lead over three players into No. 18. Park is no stranger to USGA championships. She won the 2002 U.S. Girls' Junior but then lost in the finals the following year.

Park will become the youngest Women's Open champion in history.

Sorenstam Closes Out With Eagle

Edina, Minn. - If this is Annika Sorenstam's final U.S. Women's Open, she went out in style. She eagled the 18th hole, holing out from the fairway with a mid-iron. The ball carried a pond, hopped a couple times onto the green and rolled in from the edge. She threw her arms up in jubilation with the crowd cheering. She finished three over par for the championship.

Kim Creeps Closer

Edina, Minn. - As soon as I post that, In-Kyung Kim caught Helen Alfredsson and Angela Park at five under par. Kim tapped in a 3-footer.


Not Done Yet

Edina, Minn. - Helen Alfredsson stayed within striking distance with a 4 1/2-foot eagle on the 525-yard, par-5 13th hole to fall to five under. Second-round leader Angela Park is tied with Alfredsson.

Inbee Park increased her margin to four strokes after birdieing the 13th. She drained in a 5-footer.


Park Gains Another Stroke

Edina, Minn. - Inbee Park stuck her approach shot to 5 feet of the flagstick on the 12th hole, before knocking in the birdie putt. She's eight under and three ahead of Stacy Lewis and Teresa Lu.

Side note: I remember Park from the 2002 U.S. Girls' Junior. She was virtually unknown and didn't know much English. But she kept winning. Seemed the more she won, the more reserved and shy she got.

Since then, we make a point to say our hellos at every event we see each other. While players like Paula Creamer seem to garner more headlines, Park has the game to compete with anyone. It's a long-winded way for me to say I'm not surprised that she's winning.

Lorena Ocoa finished up with a 1-over 74. In the grand scheme of things, she was 5-over 297. Didn't help she took 32 putts Sunday.

Park Separates From Field

Edina, Minn. - After a masterful chip onto the ninth green, which slopes from back to front, Stacy Lewis couldn't save par and absorbed a bogey. She's at five under with Angela Park. Paula Creamer (three under) tumbled when she also couldn't get up and down on the ninth hole. Inbee Park holds a two-stroke lead on Lewis and Park.

Lewis Falls Off Pace

Edina, Minn. - Just when she caught Inbee Park, Stacy Lewis bogeyed the eighth hole to lose a stroke. Park finished up her front nine even-par 36; she stands at seven under.

Stalemate Again


Edina, Minn. - Inbee Park couldn't get up and down from a greenside bunker on No. 7, leading to a bogey. She now shares the lead with Stacy Lewis.

Lewis had a chance to flip places with Park, but her right-to-left 10-foot putt on the seventh hole broke early.


Park Stumbles

Edina, Minn. - A bogey on the 412-yard, par-4 sixth was Inbee Park's first blemish of her round. She stands one stroke ahead of Stacy Lewis (seven under).

Park Alone On Top

Edina, Minn. - After parring No. 3, Inbee Park found herself on top of the leader board. That's because Stacy Lewis double bogeyed No. 2. She's tied with Helen Alfredsson, who bogeyed the third hole to drop to seven under. Paula Creamer double bogeyed the par-5 second and fell to six under.

I will say this: the wind is swirling something fierce out there. Balls are being carried all over the place.

Unfortunate Luck?

Edina, Minn. - Poor Morgan Pressel. On the par-4 10th, she split the fairway, stuck her approach to 8 feet of the flagtsick and knocked in the putt for a birdie. Then, like flicking a light switch on and off, she tried a cut shot off No. 11. Her drive hit the mammoth tree, 30 yards right of the tee, and forced her ball well outside the ropes. She eventually suffered a bogey.

Pressel is still boisterous on the course. She talks to her ball after nearly every shot, as though it can hear her.

Korda, 15, Goes Low

Edina, Minn. - Nice little round put together by Jessica Korda. She's the daughter of former tennis pro Petr Korda, who played on the ATP Tour and won the 1998 Australian Open. He was also on her bag this week. Just 15 years old, she had a 4-under 69 today and wrapped up her first Women's Open with a 2-over score.

Korda holds dual citizenship between the U.S. and Czech Republic. With family living in the Czech Republic, she splits her time between both countries. It helps she's fluent in two languages. I got the impression that she prefers Prague to any U.S. city. After this, she's flying back to play in a European Ladies Tour event. Incidentally, she won't be playing in the U.S. Girls' Junior.

She said her dad calms her down on the course. Asked why she didn't take to tennis, she replied that she just didn't love it. Share barely remembers her dad playing.

"I remember I was coloring when he won [the Australian Open]," she said. "You didn't know if they would be five-hour matches, four hours, so you had to be prepared."

Petr Korda, who said he lives next door to close friend Ivan Lendl, doesn't play tennis anymore. "I don't have time," he said, alluding to his "designated driver" duties he has to get his kids shipped around for various activities. For now, he's helping his daughter as much as possible.

"She never played on such a big stage before," he said. "Hopefully one day she'll play on such a big stage."

Park Catches Lewis

Edina, Minn. - Thought we might have been derelict in our duties, didn't you? Just out on the course trying to gather fodder.

Anyhow, Inbee Park has moved into a tie for the lead with two birdies out of the gate. Stacy Lewis parred her first hole. I watched Lewis on the practice putting area. Watched as she made her way from the locker room. She didn't look one bit nervous. In fact, I thought she was more nervous during her TV interview with NBC after her round yesterday.
Annika Off

Ventured out to the first tee to see Annika Sorenstam tee off in what she says is her final U.S. Women's Open. The three-time champion got a nice applause before putting her first shot airborne. Sorenstam is paired with defending champion Cristie Kerr, so you have the last two Women's Open titlists playing alongside each other today at Interlachen C.C. Annika should hear plenty of cheers today from the knowledgable Minnesota golf fans.

One group ahead of the Sorenstam-Kerr pairing are two Edina, Minn., residents working as USGA officials. The referee with the group is Ede Rice while the observer is Bill Homeyer, the father of 2003 Women's Open champion Hilary (Homeyer) Lunke.

A Tidbit To Ponder

Here's a little nugget to digest before Paula Creamer and Stacy Lewis tee off in the final pairing Sunday. The last time Creamer went head to head with a University of Arkansas player, it did not turn out well in her favor. The site was the Kahkwa Club in Erie, Pa. The occasion was the semifinals of the 2004 U.S. Women's Amateur. Matched against unheralded Amanda McCurdy, Creamer was defeated 6 and 4. It was Creamer's last appearance in a USGA amateur championship as she turned pro after going through LPGA Tour Qualifying School in the fall.

By the following spring, Creamer had her first of her current LPGA Tour victories and was well on her way to stardom. McCurdy is still trying to play her way to the LPGA Tour.

Like McCurdy, Lewis also is a former University of Arkansas player. She and McCurdy were teammates for a couple of seasons in Fayetteville. But Lewis had a much more ballyhooed career, posting 12 wins, including the 2007 NCAA Division I title.

 

 

Ochoa Update

It's almost unfathomable that one of the longest hitters on the LPGA Tour has struggled this week on the par-5 holes. But coming into the final round of the 2008 U.S. Women's Open, world No. 1 Lorena Ochoa had just two birdies in 15 attempts. Interlachen Country Club has five par-5s and depending on the tee locations, all can be reached in two.

Ochoa picked up her third par-5 birdie early in the final round, making a 4 at the second hole to get to three over par. Now 12 strokes off the pace, Ochoa is clearly out of the running for this championship.

On another note, 15-year-old Jessica Korda is three under par through nine holes in her final round. How much confidence do you think she's picked up this week?

Final Day

Looks like we're in for a perfect day weather-wise. The sun is out and there is a nice cool breeze. Stacy Lewis takes the lead into the final round, but a bunch of players have a chance to walk away with the trophy. Don't even count out Annika Sorenstam, who is seven shots out of the lead. If she can get her putter going, she could move up the leader board in a hurry and let the others take notice. Only Helen Alfredsson owns a major title among the top five players on the board. It will be interesting to watch how these players handle the nerves. Sunday at a major is a little different than a final round at a regular tour event.

While Sorenstam is a sentimental choice, many have been rooting for Paula Creamer, a native Californian who has already won six times on the LPGA Tour in her brief professional career. But she is still seeking that major title. Her former junior golf rival Morgan Pressel already has a major, and Lorena Ochoa has captured two. And Yani Tseng took the recent McDonald's LPGA Championship. You have to figure Creamer's time is coming. Will it be today?

Foiled Flatstick

If Annika Sorenstam doesn’t make a miraculous comeback and win the U.S. Women’s Open on Sunday, the reason will be due to one club, her putter.  Never a great putter, Sorenstam ranks 23rd on the LPGA Tour, averaging 29.34 strokes per round entering the week.

In majors like Kraft Nabisco, Sorenstam has fared a little better, averaging 28.25, and just two weeks ago at the McDonald's LPGA Championship her putting got much worse (30.25 average).  But all those numbers pale in comparison to this week. Sorenstam has totaled 98 putts in three rounds, a 32.66 average, far below what was required to win her last Women’s Open in 2006.

The 32.66 average ranks Sorenstam 63rd out of the 74 golfers who made the cut, and she has 17 more putts than 54-hole leader Stacy Lewis (81).

I'm about to cry,” Sorenstam when asked about her woes on the course over the last three days.  “When you do everything you can and then it just doesn't happen, I cannot hit the ball any better, I cannot put myself in a better position and I really don't know what to do.  I think I'm rolling the ball really well today and doing everything I was told to do and it feels good and it just does not happen.”

At seven shots back, the three-time Open champion will need to make everything she looks at on Sunday and likely some help from those in front of her to have any chance.

“I'm still in striking zone and I'm not giving up hope yet,” an upbeat Sorenstam said when thinking about the final round.  “Maybe it's just saving it.  I'll make them all tomorrow.”

 

Day Over

The third round is in the books and the only delay was a short 40-minute stoppage in the morning. Thankfully, the stories were on the golf course and we have quite a story brewing. Stacy Lewis could win the biggest championship in women's golf in her professional debut. We believe nobody has ever won a major in their first pro event. Amateur Francis Ouimet won the 1913 U.S. Open, but he was not a pro. Ben Curtis joined Ouimet in becoming the first player to win a men's major in his first attempt when he took the British Open in 2003.

But Lewis is hardly a surprise. She's a two-time first-team All-American with 12 college victories, including the 2007 NCAA Division I women's title. She posted a 5-0 record at the recent Curtis Cup Match in St. Andrews, Scotland and shot a first-round 65 at the 2007 LPGA Tour's Northwest Arkansas Classic that became unofficial when the final two rounds were canceled due to heavy rains. The 65 was erased from the books as was Lewis' unofficial title. Nevertheless, she showed she could compete against the best.

Now we'll see if she can handle final-round pressure at a major. The Curtis Cup experience certainly helped. On the first day of competition, she duffed her opening tee shot with a fairway metal in a four-ball match with Amanda Blumenherst. She said that's the most nervous she's ever been. The duo wound up winning the match.

On Sunday, she'll again be hitting that fairway metal on the first tee. Lewis can only hope the final result will be the same.

Third Round Running Updates

Creamer In With 69

Edina - Paula Creamer pulled a 6-footer for birdie on her final hole, eliciting a frown. Had the ball dropped, she would have had a share of the lead with Stacy Lewis at nine under.

"I have a lot of confidence right now," said Creamer, who nailed 12 of 14 fairways. "I keep giving myself birdie opportunities."

Helen Alfredsson, somehow getting lost in the shuffle, earned a 2-under 71 for a 7-under 212.

"I love this place," said Alfredsson, a captain's pick on the 2002 European Solheim Cup team that was played at Interlachen. "To hit quality shots has always been a long time coming."

I feel fortunate. We dodged more weather delays. The skies are overcast and it has taken on the feel of a British Open. It has cooled off substantially.



Park Hanging On


Edina - Well, Inbee Park has kept it interesting. She sank a 10-footer for birdie on the 16th hole to drop to eight under par.

Stacy Lewis suffers from scoliosis, by the way. She has two rods in her back. She said she stretches constantly to keep it loose.

"It was awesome," she said of her round. "The hole looked huge out there. It was so much fun."

Lewis can say that again. She put on a clinic. One caveat to the 23 putts she took: she only hit 11 of 18 greens, meaning some of the putts she took were from off the green. That's taking nothing away from her at all. The name of the game is getting the ball in the hole any way possible - within reason, of course.



Lewis Caps Brilliant Round


Edina - Stacy Lewis walked into the clubhouse with the third-round lead after draining a 6-foot birdie putt on the 18th hole. She fell to nine under in her bogey-free 67. Even more impressive, she took just 23 putts. She's currently leading the field in putts per average with 27.0.

Lewis is playing in her first even as a professional. We are trying to figure out whether a player in his/her first event as a pro has ever won a major.


Back And Forth

Edina - While Stacy Lewis finessed in a 8-footer for par on No. 17, Inbee park gave a stroke back on No. 14. She missed a 10-footer, leading to a two-putt.

Paula Creamer had a miraculous up and down out of the right greenside bunker on No. 15. With her ball close to the lip and faced with a blind shot to the flagstick, Creamer stroked a savvy sand wedge to within 10 feet and knocked in the knee-bender.

Park Falls Back

Edina - While Stacy Lewis finessed in a 8-footer for par on No. 17, Inbee park gave a stroke back on No. 14. She missed a 10-footer, leading to a two-putt.

Paula Creamer had a miraculous up and down out of the right greenside bunker on No. 15. With her ball close to the lip and faced with a blind shot to the flagstick, Creamer stroked a savvy sand wedge to within 10 feet and knocked in the knee-bender.

Sorenstam On The Horizon

Edina - Well, have to hand it to Annika Sorenstam. She showed grit and determination Saturday, carding a 1-under 72. Although it didn't put her near the lead, it did give her an outside chance heading into Sunday's fourth round.

"I'm fighting and fighting, and doing everything I can," said Sorenstam. "I can't do anymore."

Three-Way Tie

Edina - I can't keep up. Now Paula Creamer knocks in a 16-footer to catch Inbee Park and Stacy Lewis. I will say one thing, you couldn't ask for a more exciting finish coming down a stretch. Lots of drama.

Lewis Joins Park

Edina - OK, this is getting ridiculous. I've filed about five updates in a matter of two minutes. Now Stacy Lewis climbs into a share of the lead with a nifty left-to-right 12-footer on the 15th hole. She had an 'aw shucks' look on her face when it fell. She and Inbee Park are eight under.

Inbee Park In The Lead

Edina - Inbee Park moved ahead of everyone with another birdie putt on the 11th hole, this one from 20 feet. Park was a phenom as a junior, winning the 2002 U.S. Girls' Junior and named as the 2002 AJGA Rolex Player of the Year.

Helen Alfredsson bogeyed the 12th hole when she missed the green off the tee, scrambling until she missed a short putt. Alfredsson fell one stroke back of Park. Paula Creamer and Stacy Lewis were also hanging on at seven under.

No caffeine needed on this end. The action is keeping me going with all the leader changes.

Leaders Flip Again

Edina - Just as soon as Paula Creamer took the lead, it  dissolved. That's because Helen Alfredsson knocked in a 12-foot birdie putt on No. 11. Creamer's chip had gone short of the flagstick, ultimately leading to a wincing bogey.

Stacy Lewis sank a 24-foot putt on the 185-yard, par-3 14th to move into a tie with Creamer at seven under. Inbee Park fed off a 3-footer to also fall to seven under.

By the way, they've been playing in a steady drizzle. Leaf blowers have also been used to clear the greens.

Creamer Grabs Sole Possession

Edina - Paula Creamer sank a 5-foot birdie to take control of the Women's Open, falling to eight under par.

Alfredsson, Creamer Keep Pace

Edina - Shortly after Helen Alfredsson sank a 4-foot putt on No. 7, Paula Creamer answered with a 6-footer that broke right to left on the same hole. The two are grouped together. Creamer, wearing fluorescent pink and yellow polish on every other finger, had an animated fist pump. Both stand at seven under.


Lewis Creates Logjam

Edina - Stacy Lewis, in her first professional event, drained a 25-foot birdie putt off the collar on No. 8 to create a five-way lead. The ball skipped through before barely breaking.

Jammed At The Top


Edina -
Mi Hyun Kim birdied the ninth hole and made the turn three under, five under for the championship. After parring Nos. 4 and 5, Helen Alfredsson bogeyed the sixth, leading to a crammed tie for first between Alfredsson, Minea Blomqvist, Paula Creamer and Angela Park.

With two birdies through her seven holes, Stacy Lewis fell to five under. She's tied with Kim and Inbee Park.

All Alone

Edina - By the way, saw one of the questions below. The playing conditions today are unpredictable and awful. The wind seems to be shifting, swirling every five minutes. The sun pops out momentarily until dark clouds hover. It's wreaking havoc. People are fleeing for their lives. Ok, that last sentence was a little over-dramatic, but you get the point.

Surprisingly, tough, scores aren't really reflecting that. They're staying steady.

Funny note: inside the media center there is a monster board that updates scores. We have a new twist. Apparently Cristie Kerr has decided to apply different decorum and skip the fifth, sixth, seventh and eighth holes. She scoreboard has her carding a '2' on No. 9. Obviously a mistake since she's only completed four holes thus far.

All Alone

Edina - Helen Alfredsson took sole possession of the lead after a birdie on the third hole. She's one stroke ahead of Minea Blomqvist, Paula Creamer and Angela Park.

Late last night after play was suspended, Alfredsson quipped that she was happy to see leaders again, in reference to it being so long since she's been near the top of a leader board.

Kung Makes Run

Edina - Candie Kung, the 2001 U.S. Women's Amateur Public Links champion, birdie the second hole to pull even with  Minea Blomqvist at five under par. Helen Alfredsson jumped into a share of the lead with Angela Park and Inbee Park at six under.

Hmmm

Edina - OK, we now have three Kims and two Parks in the top 10. That's 50 percent of the top 10 to you and I. Mi Hyun Kim has birdied the second hole to get to four under.

Defending champion Cristie Kerr parred her first hole and remains at four under.


Kims On The Move


Edina - Two Kims - In-Young and Young - were creeping up the leader board. Both were four under for the Open. There are now two Parks (Angela and Inbee) and two Kims on the leader board, which is making my head spin as I try to keep track.

We Are Back

Edina - After a 45-minute delay, play resumed at 11:05 a.m. CDT. Looks like we may be in for a long one today, folks. Our chipper weather forecasters are predicting a slew of thunderstorms. Now we just need to see if we're fortunate enough to miss all those cells.

We are officially into the third round now.

Stat of the week, according to David Shefter: Lorena Ochoa has made one birdie on the par 5s this week. Surprising.
Back On Course

Play has resumed at the 2008 U.S. Women's Open after a 40-minute weather delay. The sun is back out. Can we please keep it there? The leaders still have an hour to go before going off. Play was first halted at 10:25 a.m. CDT.

 

Play Halted
Some bad news. They have just blown the horns signifying another weather delay. This could be an all-too-familiar scene today. Only a handful of groups have officially started play in the third round. This has the potential to be another long day.