Golfers know where to pin blame for high Women's Open scores


FORT WORTH, Texas -- After a 50-year hiatus, the U.S. Golf Association returned to Colonial Country Club to remind everyone just what a U.S. Open is all about: tough shots and complaints, in that order.

In the case of yesterday's first round of the U.S. Women's Open, Pat Bradley shot a 2-under-par 69 to take the lead, but the 40-year-old LPGA veteran wasn't what everyone was talking -- or griping -- about.

It was how USGA officials, some players thought, felt a need to remind the women that they were playing their national championship, not the Corning Classic. Faced with fairways hardened by the sun and greens that required water to be saved -- in other words, a shorter, easier Colonial -- the USGA chose some ferocious pin placements.

Throw in some Texas heat (high 90s) and delays that took most golfers more than five hours to complete rounds and you have the complete picture: anger, frustration and fatigue.

Two-time defending champion Betsy King was one example. After shooting a 74, King challenged USGA officials to get it close on the fourth hole and offered to pay $1,000 to anyone who could. She and others could not.

"I thought the course played short and, apparently to make up for it, the USGA put the pins in the most ridiculous places," said Beth Daniel, who shot a 3-over 74. "You had no shot at most of the pins. I got tired of standing in the fairway with an 8-iron and I can't go at the pin. You don't mind that for two or three pins a round, but it was like that almost all day. You have to hit a perfect shot to get close.

"The only way you have any hope was to play in the morning, because the greens were less spiked up then."

That's when Bradley played, as did Laurel Kean, a fourth-year LPGA player who was one shot back at 70 after making a birdie on the 18th hole. Kean was joined by Meg Mallon, the recent winner of the LPGA Championship, and Joan Pitcock.

It could have been more crowded around Bradley, but several golfers found life got tough at Colonial after the first three holes -- including par-5s on Nos. 1 and 3. Former Southern Methodist University golfer Missie McGeorge birdied the first three holes and finished at 1-over 72. Dottie Mochrie (73) and Laura Davies (77) also got it to 2-under through three holes and faltered.

Debbie Massey (72) was tied with Bradley through 14 holes before taking bogey on 14, 15 and 16. The course bit more than one great player, including Amy Alcott (75) and Patty Sheehan (74), yet the pins, not the course, were on everybody's mind.

Daniel and others said they assumed the USGA set the pins in three groups: six difficult, six medium and six easy. Judy Bell, the USGA treasurer in charge of setting up the course, said that theory is wrong. The USGA, she says, has four placements -- from easy to hard -- for each hole and tries to achieve a balance throughout the tournament.

Two of the hardest pins were on the par-3 fourth hole, set back left to force shots to carry over a front bunker, and the par-4 ninth hole, where the pin was set on the back on top of a second level.

Bell said the placements had nothing to do with the condition of the greens, some of which were limited in areas to put a pin. Bell also said she doubted anyone would call the pins unfair. She obviously didn't hear Mallon say "70 percent of them were outrageous."

"The pin placements were very difficult, but everybody has to play them," Bradley said. "There are a lot of pins you just have to grin and bear."

That was easy for Bradley to say after her round of three birdies and one bogey. Bradley, too, took advantage of the start by making birdies from 12 and 6 feet on the first two holes. She couldn't get up-and-down from the left bunker on the 10th hole and fell to 1-under, but she got the stroke back with a 2-iron shot to 1 1/2 feet to set up a birdie on the par-4 14th.

Meanwhile, other players were happy just to be close to Bradley.

"I didn't think we'd get an under-par round here because of the way the pins were set and the pace of play," said Mallon, whose round took five hours and 20 minutes. "I'm real happy to be 1-under."

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