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Sultry Conditions Dominate First Round of U.S. Women's Open; Three Shoot 69
High heat and humidity ruled the opening round of the U.S. Women's Open. The $3.25 million major championship began Thursday at Blackwolf Run in Kohler, Wis.
Temperatures soared to the 100-degree mark and, paired with high humidity, the day was long and tough on both the players and the spectators. The brutal conditions led to rounds approaching six hours, and many players sported umbrellas to escape the broiling sun.
The heat index is forecast to be lower Friday, but thunderstorms may be in the offing for Saturday's third round.
Lizette Salas, a LPGA rookie from California, carded a 3-under 69 to share first with fellow Americans Brittany Lincicome and Cristie Kerr. Salas had four birdies and a bogey, while the 26-year-old Lincicome had five birdies and a couple of bogeys. After opening with a nine-par 36 on the front side, Kerr - the 2007 Open champion - carded three birdies on the back for a 3-under 33.
Salas tried to stay cool emotionally in her opening round. "My caddie and I were just cracking jokes all day, and just trying to stay in the middle of the green - and just trying to stay on the green, first of all," said the four-time USC All-American.
Four players posted 70s, including last week's winner in the Walmart NW Arkansas Championship, Ai Miyazato, who began with four birdies on the front nine but stumbled with a pair of bogeys coming home. "It was really tough out there because of the heat," said the 27-year-old from Japan, a nine-time LPGA winner.
"And you know, the golf course is always tough conditions at the U.S. Women's Open. But I kept hitting the fairway and kept hitting it to the greens. So overall I'm really happy with my round."
Spain's Beatriz Ricari and Americans Jennie Lee and Lexi Thompson also shot 70. Thompson, a 17-year-old from Coral Springs, Fla., put up two birdies on the front nine and three more on the back, but those were negated by a trio of bogeys.
Considering the pressurized climatic and competitive environment, Thompson - who won the 2011 Navistar LPGA Classic to earn her tour card - was pleased with her outing. "I feel really good about it," she said. "I had two [sic] bogeys on the back nine. So I got off-track a little bit there, but I bounced back and made a few birdies, so was really happy with that and ended on birdies so take that into tomorrow."
Of her opening round, Ricari Tweeted excitedly: "Took us 5 hours 45 minutes to play! It was incredible hot and humid out there with almost no breeze."
She later told reporters in the USGA's media center: "That was definitely a challenge today. And we bought some electrolytes last week. It was incredibly hot. It was very hard conditions."
Defending champion So Yeon Ryu - who beat fellow South Korean Hee Kyung Seo in a three-hole playoff last year at The Broadmoor in Colorado Springs, Colo., for her only title in America - opened with a three-birdie, five-bogey 74, a score matched by No. 1-ranked Yani Tseng.
Paula Creamer, the 2010 U.S. Women's Open champion at Oakmont, had a 1-over 73. Following three bogeys and two birdies on the front, the 25-year-old Californian settled down with all pars coming home.
"I only missed three greens, and I gave myself a lot of chances, but it's hard onto make birdies," she told reporters later. "The opportunities that I did give myself I made. You know, it's tough to make 25, 30 footers out here.
"There's just so much speed-related. But I'll take it. It's first day. It's Thursday. Nothing crazy. But this golf course is only going to get harder, and I think today was a pretty good ball striking day. Just need to see a couple putts go in."
Creamer joined the chorus about the cauldron-like conditions. "You're not thinking 100 percent clearly all the time," she said. "And I think that's the hardest fight and battle out there is trying to just be in the shade as much as you possibly can."
But Creamer believes she's up to the challenge, hot weather or not. "I live in Florida, so I'm used to the humidity," said the player who likes pink. "And last week was hot. But that's why you work out. That's why you drink a lot of water. Nutrition is important. I would never want to sit at the end of the day and say, man, I'm tired. I'm not preparing myself, my body for something like this. I don't think I could accept that very well.
"It's hard, yes, but you just have to take the proper measurement and everything to go that route of knowing it's hot."
Cheyenne Woods, Tiger's niece and an LPGA rookie, shot 75 in her Open debut. "I'm a little drained after that almost six-hour round, but again I'm just happy to be here and excited to be part of the U. S. Open for the first time."
The 21-year-old echoed the feelings of many about the opening round of America's national golf championship. "It's definitely brutal out here," said Woods, who attended Wake Forest. "I'm from Arizona, so I'm used to the 115 degrees, but this is different. I'm sweating more than I ever have."
Before play began, South Korea's Song-Hee Kim withdrew because of a sore neck and back and was replaced by Cathryn Bristow of New Zealand, a former player at the University of Oregon.
Thirteen-year-old amateur Angel Yin of Arcadia, Calif. - the youngest ever to qualify for a U.S. Women's Open - started with a 6-over 78.
For complete scoring, visit http://www.uswomensopen.com/scoring2012/dyn/alllb.html.