PINEHURST, N.C. (AP) — This already is a U.S. Women's Open like no other, the first time in history it is played on the same course as the men just one week later. That's why Juli Inkster was only mildly surprised when the tee times were published.
Inkster is 53 and playing in her 35th Women's Open. Lucy Li is 11 and playing in her first.
"I thought for sure I'd be playing with her," Inkster said, referring to the USGA's habit of making a statement with the groupings in the opening two rounds.
Told that age was just a number, Inkster quipped, "Well, she's not as hardened as I am. She's still smiling."
For all the curiosity about golf's version of "Let's Play Two," some aspects of the week ahead at Pinehurst No. 2 don't change. The U.S. Women's Open remains the biggest event on the LPGA Tour schedule, especially now that the purse has increased to $4 million. And at the end of the week, it's still about that trophy.
"It's not an easy championship to win," Inkster said.
Even so, the grand experiment unfolds Thursday morning when amateur Bailey Tardy hits the opening shot from the same tee box — albeit 36 yards forward — from where Daniel Berger hit the opening shot in the U.S. Open just seven days ago.
One reason the Masters is the biggest television draw in golf is that it's played on the same course every year. Everyone knows it from watching TV.
Now, Pinehurst No. 2 is not as exciting as Augusta National. It's actually hard to tell the holes apart because every hole seems to have pines, sandy areas, bunkers and greens shaped like upside-down saucers that are difficult to hold. The only water hazard is on No. 16 and it's not really in play.
But with the men having just played there, this could get more attention.
Martin Kaymer was in the sandy area left of the fairway on the par-5 fifth hole and hit 7-iron to 5 feet for eagle. What will the women do? Will they knock as many putts off the back of the green at No. 6? Toru Taniguchi had the worst score of the week at 88. Kaymer had the best score at 65 — twice.
Continue reading this story on the...