The 66th U.S. Women's Open, which I think is the greatest championship in women's golf, turned out to be a strange week. It was very special for me to be on the grounds at the Broadmoor East Golf Course in Colorado Springs for a couple of days last week, since this was where I won my first LPGA event -- and my first major, and first U.S. Open -- back in 1995. The Broadmoor is a great venue and the course was in perfect condition for this year's event. It was set up to be a difficult test; the longest in tournament history at over 7,000 yards, and with a tough layout and fast, undulating greens that were extremely difficult to read. Like most other people, I thought it set up perfectly for a long hitter, and in my mind, world No. 1 Yani Tseng had a great chance to become the youngest player to earn a career Grand Slam with a win. That was before all the weather delays started.
In all, I think play was stopped for thunder and lightning five times and twice for darkness. All that stopping and starting and stopping and starting becomes very, very difficult not just physically but also mentally for the contestants. The toughest part, as a player, is not knowing--not knowing when you're going to get to play, how many holes you're going to get to play, how the course is going to play differently since the last time you were told to stop, and so on. That wears on your psyche. The players who do well under those circumstances are the ones who have tons of patience and don't get stuck in their decision-making but just allow themselves to go with the flow. In Yani's case, I think she just wanted it too badly. There was a lot of pressure on her for a young lady. With all the interruptions, I don't think she was ever able to really get it going, especially on the greens.
(Related: Get to know So Yeon Ryu)The two players who ended up fighting it out in the playoff on Monday, Korea's So Yeon Ryu and Hee Kyung Seo, weren't very long hitters but they both played solid, steady golf and putted really well. They looked confident on the greens and made the putting look simple, which says a lot about the way they were playing. So distance turned out to be a smaller factor in this tournament than I predicted it would; in the end, it was all about the short game.
It was a rough tournament for Paula Creamer as well; she played better than the rest of the field all week from tee to green but just couldn't get the ball in the hole. Another player who had a tough time on the greens was Michelle Wie--she averaged over 34 putts per round. In general, Michelle was the biggest disappointment of the week for me. We keep talking about her potential, but that only goes so far. Now it's time to talk about experience and the mental part when it comes to Michelle, and that's the part of her game she has yet to showcase. Sometimes I get the sense she was more into golf before she started college. She seems to be going backward; she began to play in majors at the age of 12 and almost seemed more focused when she was in high school than she does now. I sometimes wonder if friends and other things are more fun for her now than golf is. And there's nothing wrong with that, it just makes me think she was pushed too hard to excel too soon. But we'll see what happens after she graduates; it's still true that she has more potential than anyone.
It was unfortunate that this great event, the only one slated for network TV coverage this season, with the same announcers who make watching the men's U.S. Open so much fun, ended up having such bad luck with the weather. It would have been nice to be able to watch more of the golf live on TV, and for there to have been a Sunday finish. But even though it ultimately came down to two Korean players that most Americans aren't very familiar with fighting it out in a playoff, Monday's action was an exciting end to the competition. To have the leader of the tournament, Seo, finish Sunday, and three players able to catch her come out and finish their rounds Monday morning made for some aggressive golf. Cristie Kerr, Angela Stanford and Ryu knew exactly what they had to do, and Ryu did it. That probably gave her an advantage in the playoff against Seo as well.
Having two great young Korean players duke it out for the U.S. Open trophy just points to how global this sport has become, and that the growth of the game all over the world is continuing. They've made some great efforts on the other side of the globe to get girls to play golf. They're getting results, and we can learn from the way they're doing it.
Lastly, as the winner of the last 18-hole U.S. Women's open playoff ever played (against Pat Hurst at Newport CC in Rhode Island in 2006; the USGA changed the rule after that year), I wholeheartedly endorse the shorter, three-hole playoff. After playing 72 holes on the toughest course in the game, there's no need to go 18 more. Three holes, aggregate score, is perfect. And winning it with two birdies, the way Ryu did, leaves no doubt about who deserves the trophy.
Hall of Famer Annika Sorenstam won 72 LPGA Tour titles, including 10 majors, before stepping away from the game in 2008 to raise a family and focus on her Annika-branded businesses. She resides in Lake Nona, Fla.
(Photo: Getty Images)