New Records Set at U.S. Women's Open

By: Nancy Berkley


[Editor's Note: Cybergolf's Nancy Berkley has been attending the U.S. Women's Open in Colorado Springs. Here's her take on the stop-and-start nature of the championship.]

For starters, it's been the weather - rain and lightning - in Colorado Springs at the Broadmoor Golf Club's East Course. Saturday, which should have been the third round of the tournament, broke records for having the most rain in one day over the last 12 months.

There have been five rain delays over the first four days and that's probably another record. At 8:00 p.m. Sunday, play was halted, which ended any hopes that a new champion would be awarded a trophy that evening, which turns this four-day championship into five days.

The tournament continued Monday beginning at 8 a.m. - MDT. Leading the unfinished final round is Hee Kyung Seo from Korea at 3-under. But unlike most tournaments where the leaders are in the final groups heading up the 18th fairway, this tournament is quite different. Here's how it unfolded - and call it a "new record" for a U.S. Women's Open.

Round 2 was completed on Saturday around 1:30 after a very brief rain delay. That was important because it allowed the tournament officials to make the cut for the final two rounds. Seventy-two players made the cut instead of the expected 60, because 16 players were tied at plus-7. Michelle Wie was one who just made it.

With just a short break, Round 3 began. The two leaders going into Round 3 were Mika Miyazato at minus-5 and Ai Mayazato at minus-4. Although they are not related, the two women are friends and are both from Okinawa, Japan. Mika had announced that if she wins any of the $3.25 million purse, she would donate all her winnings to the earthquake relief efforts in Japan.

When the third round actually began around 3:15 p.m. Saturday, the weather looked a little better. To speed up play, tournament director Ben Kimball made the decision to have half the field tee off at the first hole, and the other half at the 10th - all playing in threesomes. Not exactly a traditional third round.

But then, afternoon thunderstorms came on suddenly around 4 p.m. Some golfers were already in the midst of their round and had to mark their balls. Others had not even teed off. The skies opened and thousands of spectators were stranded in pounding sheets of rain as they waited for busses to take them back to hotels and parking lots. And, this is Colorado Springs, where early July is almost always a relatively dry period for mountain golf.

Sunday, which should have been the final round of the tournament, turned out to be a "Who's on first?" day and another record-breaker. Sunday play began early! Those players who started Round 3 began teeing off at 6:45 a.m. Yes - 6:45 a.m. The handful of threesomes who had been able to get a few holes in on Saturday before the rain, began play at 6:45 a.m. at the position of their marked balls.

All of the players were able to complete Round 3 around noon - give or take an hour. At the end of Round 3, the leaderboard looked different. There was a three-way tie at 1-under: Floridian Cristie Kerr, Korean So Yeon Ryu and Texan Angela Stanford. Seo and Mika were tied at even-par. Several players were within reach of the leaders at plus-1 and plus-2.

It had already been announced by Kimball that to try to ensure Round 4 could be completed Sunday, it was decided not to take any extra time and repair or rearrange the threesomes. In other words, players were in the same groups for rounds 3 and 4. That's why in the final round the last threesomes were not necessarily the leaders.

By Monday mid-morning, the 2011 U.S. Women's Open champion should be determined. Being a long-range planner by nature, on Saturday after looking at the forecasts and having spent quite a bit of time in the Rockies, I had real doubts the tournament would be over on Sunday.

So I decided to hedge my reporting and focus on something other than scores. I decided to study the players' pre-shot routines on their fairway shots and on the greens. I was motivated in part by all the comments after Rory McIlroy's win at Congressional for his speedy play. Here's what I observed.

First, professionals take very few practice swings. That's probably not a surprise, but it's a reminder to all of us recreational golfers that we should limit our practice swings. I observed several different styles of practice swings. Here are a few of my notes.

Some players like Suzann Pettersen don't take any practice swings. Pettersen looks at her shot from behind and aligns her swing and stance visually. Then she steps up to the ball and hits it.

Yani Tseng (who hasn't had a great Open) spends time with her caddie discussing club choice, then she stands behind the ball, parallel to the shot she will make, takes two practice swings, steps up to her ball, pauses (for what seems longer than some other golfers) and then hits.

Some players take a lazy practice swing; others make a hard and powerful swing. Some players stand behind the ball facing the hole and take their practice swings not aligned with the actual swing they will make.

I sat for a while in the gallery at the 18th tee and watched the professionals putt. Lots of different styles there also. For example, Seo reads putts from behind the ball, then takes only one practice swing and fires away. She is a speedy putter. In contrast, Paula Creamer talks with her caddie, reads the putt with just the marker on the green, then replaces the ball, then takes several (I counted five) practice putts and then swings.

I am focused on pre-shot routines because I have been reading a new book, "Play Your Best Golf Now" by Pia Nilsson and Lynn Marriott with Ron Sirak of Golfworld. Pia and Lynn are game coaches who are less technical than many other coaches. (They were very involved in the development of Annika's swing.)

As I watched these superb women golfers in this U.S. Open - with their different pre-shot routines, I was reminded of a quote from Pia and Lynn: "The key to great performance has as much to do with passion, belief and trust as it does with arm, angles, body positions and swing planes. You are not a golfer who happens to be a person, but rather a person who happens to play golf."

We will know shortly who wins this marathon U.S. Women's Open. And then we'll watch someone hold up the trophy from a record-breaking championship.

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.


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