Green Holds First-Round Lead, Other Big Names in Close Pursuit
The opening round of a championship is all about putting yourself in position to have a chance to win. That’s exactly what a number of big names did Thursday at the U.S. Senior Women’s Open, and none was better than Tammie Green, who played the South Course at NCR Country Club in 5-under-par 68, one stroke better than Catrin Nilsmark and Leta Lindley.
Lurking two strokes back of Green at 70 are 2019 U.S. Senior Women’s Open champion Helen Alfredsson and Pat Hurst, who’s won both the U.S. Girls’ Junior and the U.S. Women’s Amateur and is trying to join Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, Tiger Woods, JoAnne Carner and Carol Semple Thompson as the only players to win three different USGA championships.
Laura Davies, the 2018 winner of this championship, is at 71 with former Women’s British Open titleholder Catriona Matthew another stroke back at 72. Defending champion Annika Sorenstam is at 73, along with Trish Johnson, who is third all-time in career victory on the Ladies European Tour.
Among those at even par or better are all three of the past champions of the U.S. Senior Women’s Open and six winners of major championships on the LPGA Tour.
“I played well, played solid from tee to green, only missed a couple fairways but was able to get them up and down when I needed to, and the putter was working today,” said seven-time LPGA winner Green after a bogey-free round in which she hit 13 of 18 greens but needed only 26 putts.
“It's a lot of defense out there,” Green said about the considerable challenges of NCR. “The greens are lightning fast. I'll tell you, it's a great championship course, NCR is a great championship course.”
The South Course is, indeed, a hefty challenge with towering tree-lined fairways winding across a gently hilly terrain. The brilliant green complexes feature putting surfaces resembling Salvador Dali’s painting of the melting clocks, dripping off sharply to all sides, making ball position with approach shots an extremely precise art.
“Oh, it was a wild round, to be honest,” said Nilsmark, who played out of the trees often and hit 14 greens despite finding only seven fairways. “I got lucky on a couple of my tee shots that I had a second shot for the green. I'm a little surprised that I was 4-under. I thought I was 2-under when I hit my last putt.”
Lindley played well with an occasional clunker but also bailed herself out with a more-than-reliable putter.
“I really putted well today, rolled the ball nicely, and just felt calm and relaxed and felt really good about my game today,” said Lindley, who found only 12 greens but compensated nicely with 26 putts.
Meanwhile, 83-year-old JoAnne Carner shot an 83, extending her streak in this championship of shooting her age or better to three consecutive rounds and four times overall.
One of the most frustrating rounds was by Juli Inkster, who with three U.S. Women’s Amateur championships and two U.S. Women’s Open titles can also become a winner of three different USGA championships. She hit 16 of 18 greens – T-2 in the field – but needed 37 putts on her way to a 76.
Inkster can play her way back into the mix on Friday and join that collection of big names who on Thursday accomplished job No. 1 in a major championship – they gave themselves a chance to win. Now we see who builds on that in Friday’s second round and rides into the weekend on a wave of momentum.
“The course is playing great. It's a true test of golf. I'm just very disappointed in my round. I've come in here prepared, it just didn't turn out today. I'm going to hit some balls. I've got to start hitting the fairways and maybe some putts will drop.” – Defending champion Annika Sorenstam after a 73 that has her five strokes back
“No one would ever expect Rosie Jones to hit into them so I can just blame it on my playing partners.” –Rosie Jones, who was 35 yards behind Juli Inkster and Catrin Nilsmark all day, after mistakenly hitting a blind second shot on a par 5 into the group in front of them
“Oh, I loved that. You know, it's nice not to get skunked, as we say, and make one birdie. I had an opportunity on the next hole, too.” – JoAnne Carner, 83, about her birdie on No. 15 in the first round
“I think it's awesome. When I'm 83, I hope to tee it up just like her and be able to get it around. I think it's great for the game.” – Pat Hurst (70) on Carner still competing at age 83
“My leg, my ankle, it’s all going on. My right Achilles is sore and now [that limp] is affecting my left leg. But I’m hitting it pretty well.” – Laura Davies (71)
“I was so nervous when I saw I was going to play with Laura [Davies] that I emailed Pia [Nilsson] for some coaching.” – Yuko Saito (75), on her first-round pairing, about reaching out to her long-time mental coach