U.S. Women's Open
December 12, 2020

Players sound off on U.S. Women's Open setup: 'You want us to look good on TV more than anything'

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Jamie Squire

Stacy Lewis plays her third shot on the ninth hole during the third round of the 75th U.S. Women's Open.

Players sounded off Saturday at the U.S. Women’s Open after playing a setup some deemed unfair.

Breezy and wet conditions stretched out an already hearty Champions Golf Club. Coupled with an array of pins in tucked positions and mud accumulating on golf balls, the field turned in a 74.7 scoring average in Round 3, with just two players breaking par. Granted, U.S. Opens are not envisioned to be leisurely affairs, yet a number of competitors asserted the test presented on Saturday in Houston crossed the line, one that embarrassed them.

“We get on network TV, we get on this big stage, there’s no other golf events going on, you want us to look good on TV more than anything,” said Stacy Lewis, who is a member at Champions, to Golf Magazine's Zephyr Melton after a 77. “Either they need to play the ball up or they need to adjust their setup. Mud balls combined with the way they set the golf course up today set us up for long rounds and bad golf.”

Added Sarah Schmelzel, who posted a 76, to Melton: “I think women’s golf deserves to be highlighted a little bit better than that. We want to see good shots on TV. We want our coverage to be fun for viewers. From my experience, and the experience of the girls in my group, it might not have been the most fair.”

Much of the consternation resided in the USGA’s decision to play the ball down. In the governing body’s defense, preferred lies are an uncommon sight for major championship play, yet the players felt conditions necessitated that call.

“[The mud] was an extreme issue,” said Lindsey Weaver, who shot 75, to Melton. “I’ve never played golf having this many mud balls. I didn’t even know what to expect. … Sometimes it was a major factor, and sometimes it was OK, but it was brutal. Really, really brutal.”

“In a way, it was hit it and hope,” echoed Schmelzel. “It’s out of your control—it’s just luck what can happen to it.”

With similar weather conditions expected Sunday—a nasty forecast forced earlier tee times—veteran Cristie Kerr, who agreed the mud “definitely affected” shots, petitioned the USGA to change its stance heading into the final round.

“It’ll be interesting with the rain coming tomorrow,” Kerr told Melton after a 74. “ [I] doubt the USGA will play it up, but they should consider it.”