US Women's Open: Was Pinehurst Too Tough for Best Women Golfers?

Fred AltvaterContributor IIJune 23, 2014

Michelle Wie was the only woman to break par at Pinehurst.
Michelle Wie was the only woman to break par at Pinehurst.John Bazemore/Associated Press

I thoroughly enjoy watching the best women golfers ply their trade every week on the LPGA Tour, and I love Pinehurst. Visiting the village of Pinehurst and soaking up the history is a truly awe-inspiring experience.

With the addition of the multitude of talented young players, the depth of the LPGA Tour has exponentially increased the enjoyment factor, and I firmly believe it has one of the best products to offer golf fans week in and week out.

The U.S. Women’s Open even gives us a glimpse of the young amateurs who will be tomorrow’s stars as they get their first taste of world-class competition.

Stacy Lewis congratulates Michelle Wie on the 72nd hole.
Stacy Lewis congratulates Michelle Wie on the 72nd hole.Bob Leverone/Associated Press

The USGA, in its infinite wisdom, took that enjoyment out of the equation.

Watching the best women golfers in the world struggle to make double bogeys and triple bogeys is no fun.

I am forced to watch that style of golf every week with my buddies, and it reminds me too much of my own sorry excuse of a golf game.

Pinehurst No. 2 proved to be a difficult test for the men in the week preceding the women’s tournament. Dry conditions left the course extremely firm and fast and made the greens nearly impossible to hold. Except for the outstanding performance of Martin Kaymer, it became a chipping contest.

The grand experiment of playing the U.S. Women’s Open the week after the men’s U.S. Open is intriguing and seemed like a good idea at the time, but was a USGA-prepared Pinehurst No. 2 a fair test for the women?

Lydia Ko with caddie Mark "Fluff" Cowan never was a factor at Pinehurst.
Lydia Ko with caddie Mark "Fluff" Cowan never was a factor at Pinehurst.Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

Golf purists would argue that all of the ladies had to play the same course and that the most talented woman was identified.

That may be true, but it wasn’t enjoyable to watch.

Only five players were able to break par in the first round, and the cut came at nine over par after 36 holes. Only two women were under par after the first two rounds, and only the winner, Michelle Wie, finished under par for the four rounds.

Again, the USGA types would say this is exactly what they had in mind. Par becomes relevant, not just some big number with a negative sign in front of it.

Being forced to watch the best women in the world continuously struggle around the greens for nearly impossible par and bogey saves was like watching the final scene in Tin Cup over and over or being the recipient of a root canal.

It was painful.

The ladies are not as physically strong and cannot get as much height or spin on their iron shots. Consequently, their approach shots careened off the bowl-shaped greens and left diabolical recovery chips or putts from off the green.

Chip shots, bunker shots and some putts would not hold the green, and the player was forced to watch helplessly as her ball continued to roll off the other side into an even more difficult position.

Donald Ross designed his severely undulating green complexes on Pinehurst No. 2 at a time when green speeds were much slower than today, as the grass could not be cut as tight. The severe slopes in the greens and the beveled edges were not as penal.

Was Pinehurst No. 2 meant to play at 12 on the Stimpmeter?

With modern mowing equipment and better agronomy, the greens more closely resemble a tabletop or a concrete driveway. There is very little friction to stop a golf ball from rolling downhill.

Like the Energizer Bunny, it just keeps going and going.

Only a slight amount of rain fell on Pinehurst during the two weeks of both tournaments, not nearly enough to sufficiently soften the course to accept full iron shots into the firm greens.

Lexi Thompson was paired with Michelle Wie on Saturday.
Lexi Thompson was paired with Michelle Wie on Saturday.Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

Stacy Lewis and Michelle Wie are the two best players in the world right now. Lexi Thompson, Lydia Ko and Karrie Webb aren’t too far behind.

Thompson and Ko only managed to break par in one round, while Webb never broke 70 and finished T-30. Thompson was a factor in the tournament and finished T-7 at four over par. Ko finally broke par with a one-under 69 on Sunday to leave her T-15 at seven over par for the week.

Add the extreme heat and humidity prevalent in North Carolina in mid-June to the difficulty of the golf course, and fitness also became a factor.

Michelle Wie is a worthy champion and certainly deserves the title of U.S. Women’s Open Champion.

My only question is whether we could have witnessed the same result on a slightly less difficult golf course.