Observations of a Rainy U.S. Women's Open

By: Nancy Berkley

If you watched the U.S. Women's Open on TV Friday, you might be a little confused about what's going on. Didn't I see Paula Creamer, last year's U.S. Open champion, wearing two different outfits?

Blame Mother Nature. Blame those thunder and lightning showers that come across the front range of the Rockies in beautiful Colorado Springs where the tournament is being played at the Broadmoor Golf Club's East Course.

There was a plan: Thursday was the first round; Friday was to be the second round. Then the field of 156 would be cut to the low 60 players (and ties) and any player within 10 strokes of the leader. Those golfers that made the cut would compete on Saturday and Sunday for the title.

But, the schedule isn't going according to plan. On Thursday, play was suspended around noontime because of weather. Twenty-five players had completed Round 1. Fifty-nine players were somewhere on the course. Those players on the course had to mark their ball and head back to their hotel, and 72 players had not yet teed off on the first hole.

Friday, play began at 7:45 a.m. The practice range opened at 5:30! The players who had been on the course when play was suspended resumed play from their marked balls. That interruption of play - and loss of momentum - can take a toll. The 72 who never teed off Thursday looked forward to Friday when they would play their first round without interruption - Creamer was one of them. In fact, they faced a day when they could expect to start their second round in the afternoon and maybe get 36 holes in.

Aha, that's the answer to Paula Creamer's two outfits. After she finished Round 1, she took a quick break, changed clothes, maybe had time for some food and headed out to start Round 2.

The demands on golfers in this tournament are many. The 6000-plus-foot altitude does make the ball travel farther - especially if hit high. And the altitude is a physical strain for some. Then there's the rain. Not everyone reacts the same way to the interruption of play.

The USGA does a super-fantastic job of interviewing players and promptly sending out the transcripts to the media. When Christie Kerr, a former U.S. Women's Open champion and whose ball was in a fairway bunker when play stopped on Thursday, was asked by a USGA interviewer: "How frustrating is it to have the interruption?" Kerr answered: "It is, and you know, I've got a tough shot coming up ahead. At least I'll get to practice it in the morning you know before we go out."

When Amy Anderson, an amateur from North Dakota who qualified for the Open was asked in another interview about the weather delay, she answered: "You know what? Actually, I like the rain because it's gonna soften the course, make it a little easier to score. Yeah, the momentum, it does certainly slow that down. I wanted to keep going - at least I wanted to finish out my putting on hole 13. But I guess you can't really control the weather. I'm gonna go out there and just pretend I'm starting on hole 1, I guess, tomorrow."

The good news is that Round 1 has officially concluded. At that point Amy Anderson was tied for second with Lazette Salas, a recent graduate of USC. They are both one shot behind leader Stacy Lewis, the winner of the LPGA Championship earlier this year. Sounds like Amy's attitude served her well.

But the bad news is that play on Friday was suspended around 6 p.m. That means that although some of the field has been able to complete Rounds 1 and 2, many didn't. The bottom line is that the cut won't be made until Saturday. And unless the USGA figures out how to get two final rounds in by Sunday evening, the tournament will likely have its final round and award the trophy Monday.

So far, I've just been talking about the players. But Ben Kimball, director of the U.S. Women's Open, along with the course superintendent and his staff have had their work cut out for them also.

The large undulating greens are a unique feature of this course. Think of it this way: A very large rambling house might be 6,000 square feet; that's the size of many of the greens and some are even bigger. Pin placements are crucial. Because of the influence of the "mountain-gravity," slopes that look uphill can actually be downhill. For every round, there's a different set of pin placements. (And the tee areas are moved on some holes each day so the course plays different lengths.)

On Thursday, play stopped for Amy Anderson on the 13th green during the first round. When she resumed play Friday, she had to putt with Round 1 pin placements. But when the players who were playing their Round 2 (such as those who actually finished all 18 on Thursday and could finish Round 2 Friday), there had to be a new Round 2 pin placement in place.

I'm looking at the hole-placement charts I received from the USGA. In Round 1, the hole on the 13th green (a 450-yard par-4) was in the right-hand corner of the green. In Round 2, the location was back-left.

Think of the greens crew and logistics of changing Round 1 holes for Round 2 in a short period of time. Their work is pretty amazing and perhaps the tournament director will tell us more about the challenges posed by Mother Nature.

I'm on my way to Colorado Springs to cover Round 2 and the cut, and watch and write about the final rounds. But I'm bringing an umbrella because then I know it won't rain!

Nancy Berkley, President of Berkley Golf Consulting, is an expert on women's golf and junior-girls golf. She is a frequent contributor to www.cybergolf.com/womensgolf. Her book, "Women Welcome Here! A Guide to Growing Women's Golf," published by the National Golf Foundation, is an industry reference on marketing golf to women and spotting trends within the industry. She offers information and advice about the golf industry on www.berkleygolfconsulting.com and is often quoted in national publications. She was a contributing editor of "Golf for Women" magazine and a founding advisor of "Golfer Girl Magazine." Her interviews with women in the golf industry now appear on www.golfergirlcareers.com. Nancy lives in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., and is a graduate of the University of Minnesota, Harvard University and Rutgers Law School. After a business and legal career, she decided to write about the game she learned and loved as a teenager. She describes herself as a good bogey golfer with permanent potential.