Thunderstorms delay U.S. Women's Open
SOUTHERN PINES, N.C. (AP) Annika Sorenstam stood in the ninth fairway next to her bag, sizing up how far she was from her final hole on a troublesome day at the U.S. Women's Open.
Then came a sound that has become all too familiar. And no, it wasn't a big cheer.
An air horn, the most annoying sound in golf, resonated across Pine Needles on Friday to signal another delay brought on by lightning. Sorenstam bowed her head and walked toward shelter.
No one hit another shot the rest of the day at a tournament that can't seem to get started.
"It's brutal," said Juli Inkster, playing in the group behind Sorenstam. "Now we have to get up at 5 in the morning to play one hole. It's just been start and stop, start and stop. And tomorrow might be worse. It's a crapshoot."
When play was suspended amid the rumble of thunder, only 25 out of 156 players had finished the second round. It was to resume at 7:30 a.m. Saturday, although USGA official Mike Davis made no guarantees.
Strong storms were expected through the night and into the morning.
"This area has gone for weeks on end without any kind of weather. And bring the USGA to town, and it's amazing how we can change weather patterns," Davis said.
The plan was for the third round to begin as early as 3:30 p.m. Saturday, after the cut had been made.
Not much changed on the leaderboard from Thursday when there was a 3 1/2 -hour delay an 18-year-old named Park was the clubhouse leader.
It was Angela Park after the first round, although she didn't hit a shot on Friday. Her good friend, In-Bee Park, bogeyed two of the last four holes for a 73 that put her at even-par 142.
She was one shot ahead of Kris Tamulis, who shot 71.
Angela Park could also claim the clubhouse lead, since she rarely left except to warm up on the range. She remains at 3 under.
"I'm just having a good time relaxing at the locker room," she said. "I'm very calm and eager to play the next three rounds."
On the course, nerves were frayed.
Candie Kung tapped in a putt on the 18th hole a split-second before the horn sounded to stop play, so she became the 25th player to complete the second round. Janice Moodie of Scotland also had a tap-in, but under the rules for dangerous weather, she was not allowed to finish. Moodie will return in the morning to putt out, then wait until about 5 p.m. to hit her next shot.
Sorenstam left before speaking to the media, but no doubt she wanted to put this day behind her.
One day after Karrie Webb opened with an 83 for the worst score of her career, Sorenstam looked as though she might join her.
She finished off a 1-under 70 in the morning, then after a quick turnaround, began her second round with a double bogey when a chip up the slope on the 10th hole came back to her feet. She blew another chip some 18 feet by the hole, found the bunker with a sand wedge on the par-5 15th and went out in 42 to fall off the leaderboard.
Sorenstam was 7 over through 10 holes until she steadied herself, and a birdie on No. 8 brought her to 5 over for the tournament.
Two players not many people expected to see beyond Friday made it to the weekend under such circumstances.
Alexis Thompson, the 12-year-old from south Florida who became the youngest qualifier in history, chipped in for birdie from 40 yards to complete a respectable 76 in the morning, but her round got away from her in the afternoon. She was 12 over with five holes remaining, including some of the toughest at Pine Needles.
"It's pretty cool, being here another day," she said.
The other is Michelle Wie, who opened with an 82 and didn't get past the practice range Friday.
The biggest spectacle might have been the dozen Japanese photographers scrambling in the parking lot to get pictures of Ai Miyazato, the biggest golf sensation in Japan.
On the course, action was limited.
In-Bee Park, a former U.S. Junior Girls champion, struggled to keep her tee shots in the fairway, but got enough good bounces to keep her round together and post a two-day score of even par. And she finished, which was enough cause for celebration.
"I think it took us like 10 hours to play yesterday, so I think it was a lot shorter day today," she said.
Inkster put together a remarkable turnaround. After a four-putt double bogey on Thursday in the middle of her first round, she dropped six shots in a four-hole span when she returned and completed a 78.
The two-time Women's Open champion was 10 over for the tournament through nine holes of the second round when she two-putted from 12 feet for birdie on No. 1, then fired off three straight birdies, finishing with a chip-in on the fifth. She had a 12-foot birdie putt on No. 8 when the horn blew.
Lorena Ochoa and Morgan Pressel were among those who did not tee off, still at even par. Pressel was brought into the television booth for an interview and went over highlights from the day before.
"It's funny to listen to you talk about my round yesterday because I can't remember it. It was so long ago," she said. "It seems like I've just been around here forever and hoping we might hit our first tee shot today. It's going to be a marathon weekend."
And it's going to be an early wake-up for so many players.
Paula Creamer was in the 18th fairway, no more than 10 minutes from calling it a day. She was at 4 over.
"Obviously, it gets annoying after a while, but it is what it is," Creamer said. "We get pulled off for 20 minutes or so, then get back on. It's difficult. But I guess you just have to go with the flow."