The Pepper Mill

The Pepper Mill

Natalie Gulbis got her first win two weeks ago at the Evian Masters.
Bob Martin/SI

Home Girls St. Andrews finally opened its arms to the greatest female players in the world last week, and the Women’s British Open at the Home of Golf was a raging success, although two blips kept it from being all it could have been. First, number 17, the Road Hole, a 453-yard par-4 in Open Championships, was played from the normal tee but as a par-5, making par for the course 73. The reason: Officials feared that bad weather would make the hole unreachable. Really? Why couldn’t they simply find a forward teeing ground to use in foul conditions instead of messing with history, the most storied second shot in golf and the value of par? Second, the pace of play was atrocious, with multiple six-hour rounds clogging the course. Earlier this year the LPGA did an admirable job of establishing and enforcing new pace-of-play regulations. Rounds were noticeably faster, and the players were policing themselves beautifully. Since mid-May, though, the pace seems to have crept backward. Granted, the Women’s British is run by the Ladies Golf Union, but the LPGA has to step in and help speed up play at the Open as well as at its own events. No doubt the R&A noticed. The welcome to golf’s home was a huge step for the women’s game, but if the steps that followed were too slow, another invitation may not follow.

Youth Tube Two events remain before Betsy King‘s U.S. Solheim Cup team is finalized. The core of her squad is playing great at just the right time, including Natalie Gulbis, who earned a huge first win two weeks ago at the Evian Masters. The largest remaining question is whom Betsy should choose with her two captain’s picks. I’m pushing Nicole Castrale and Meaghan Francella, 11th and 15th in the point standings, respectively. Both have won for the first time this year, and in impressive fashion. Castrale beat Lorena Ochoa in a playoff at the Ginn Tribute in June, and in only her sixth LPGA start Francella took down Annika Sorenstam in a four-hole playoff in Mexico City. Yes, Castrale and Francella are short on experience, but they are long on heart.

Dottie Pepper, a 17-year LPGA veteran and an analyst for NBC and Golf Channel, welcomes questions at [email protected].

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