Light winds and high humidity exposed Sebonack Golf Club’s famously fierce greens to an attack by some of the worlds top woman golfers as the 68th U.S. Women’s Open Championship officially got under way at Sebonack Golf Club in Southampton on Thursday.
The world’s top ranked player, Inbee Park of South Korea, stormed to the top of the leaderboard early posting a 5-under par 67. By late in the day, another South Korean, Ha-Neul Kim had taken the lead at 6-under par and I.K. Kim, was tied with Park at 5-under. A pair of Swedish players, Caroline Hedwall and Anna Nordqvist were a stroke back at 4-under and large group of players clustered within another three strokes. Top amateur Lydia Ko was even par, with Southampton native and Sebonack employee Louis de Kerillis caddying for her (see related story).
The scores posted by the leaders were surprisingly low, considering the renowned difficulty of Sebonack’s greens. But the gentle breezes allowed players easy control of their approaches and greens that the PGA course managers opted not to roll before Thursday’s round held shots that might not have stuck another day.
The greens were rolling at 11 on the Stimpmeter earlier in the week but several players and observers noted that they appeared to be considerably slower than that on Thursday.
Inbee Park teed off in the morning at the 10th hole with the two players who follow behind her in the world rankings, Stacy Lewis of the United States, the world’s number two, and Suzann Pettersen of Norway, ranked third.
Lewis was in a good spot as well with her round complete on Thursday, at 1 under par 71. It was a different story for Pettersen, however, who had a frustrating day. She posted a 4-over 76.
One-time phenom and poster-child for American women’s golf, Natalie Gulbis, has struggled with her game in recent years but was just three back after a solid 2-under par round. 2010 U.S. Open champion Paula Creamer was 1-over after 15 holes. Brittany Lincicome was even par and Juli Inkster was 2-over. Long Island golfer Annie Park, with Hampton Bays native Joe Carson caddying for her, was 7-over.
Inbee Park has a chance to make some special history at this Open. If she can win, it will be her third straight win in a major this season, which would tie the record set by Babe Zaharias in 1950.
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