Sophie Gustafson played Rd. 4 in half the time it took her (and six fewer shots than she needed) to play Rd. 1 of the U.S. Women's Open. (Photo by Getty Images)
Sophie Gustafson clocked an over-six-hour round of 77 on Thursday afternoon, which included holdups that would have warranted a take-out pizza order like the one Lori Garbacz placed during the first round of the 1991 U.S. Women's Open at Colonial. On Saturday, when the heat wave was over and play should have sped up considering the field was cut to 65 players that went off one tee in twosomes, a fierce wind and tricky pin positions kept the pace snail-like, and Gustafson shot a field-worst 12-over 84. In last place after round three, she found herself teeing off first in Sunday's final round, as a single. She finished 18 holes in three hours and six minutes, putting a five-hole gap between herself the group behind her, and shot a one-under-par 71.
"It was awesome to play alone today," Gustafson said after her round. "My 84 yesterday was just a matter of poor ball striking, and with the wind we had, it was not a good combination. There was almost no wind today so it played a lot easier, and I hit the ball a lot better. Nice to be able to play at my own pace. The 'stop-start-wait-hurry' thing is no fun."
The Sunday flags at Blackwolf Run aren't exactly benign, but some tees have been moved up, and with a dead calm and comfortable temperatures finally combining to take weather out of play, scores are already much lower than they were on Saturday. Gustafson's three-hour round will go unmatched, but hopes are the leaders will make it around in less than five hours to keep NBC from having to go over their allotted ending time of 6 o'clock Eastern. The 8:20 a.m. group -- whose position was exactly in the middle of the Sunday starting field -- finished in four hours and 18 minutes, so there's hope play will be considerably faster even for the last groups. And if the pace keeps up, so does the possibility of scores in the 60s. Korea's Na Yeon Choi takes a six-shot lead into the final round and the largest deficit ever overcome in this event is five shots (by Annika Sorenstam at the Broadmoor in 1995), but there's a bevvy of talented players behind her looking to break that record. With Choi starting out with a nervous bogey, you never know.