Article & infographic by Alan Saunders
Through the first two days, Lancaster Country Club hasn’t been kind to the big hitters in the 2015 U.S. Women’s Open. The course featured only two par fives, both of which were unreachable, and the shortest par four – the 353-yard 16th hole – is defended by numerous bunkers.
Through two rounds, only one golfer earned an eagle, which was a holed-out 65-yard wedge shot by Lizette Salas, and a par three – the water-defended 12th – had the most double bogeys.
Of the six golfers in the field that were in the top ten in driving distance on the LPGA tour, four missed the cut, including 2015 ANA Inspiration champion Brittany Lincicome.
“The rough was so tough out there,” Lincicome said. “Being a long hitter, with there only being two par-fives, it doesn’t take me out the equation, but I was pretty bummed when I got here and saw that there were only two par-fives.”
Lincicome, who finished at 9-over, wasn’t alone in struggling with the rough. The high, thick grass was doused by a heavy shower on Thursday afternoon, making it even more difficult to hit out of than earlier in the week. Compared to what the golfers are used to on the LPGA tour, the rough was a nightmare.
“It’s not even comparable,” said fellow long-driver Gerina Piller. “You’re lucky if you can advance it 150 yards. It’s thick, it’s sticky, and for some reason the ball just falls right down to the bottom.”
Piller, however, bucked the trend, following up her first-round 71 with a 72 on Friday. She thought the soggy conditions and length of the course were an advantage for a long hitter – but only if she could keep the ball in the fairway.
“There are some holes where you can just bust driver and obviously, there are some pretty long holes out here, so for us, those are a little easier,” Piller said. “Obviously, on any course that’s playing long and soft, hitting it far is definitely an advantage.”
So while length off the tee may have been helpful, it was driving accuracy – and staying out of the rough – that was the key to a low score.
“They’re pretty big fairways, and it’s been a little easier [to hold them] since it’s been soft,” said Piller. “For me, I missed some fairways today, which is unacceptable, just because it isn’t a tight course.”
The top-10 players in fairways hit over the first two days all made cut, including Stacy Lewis and Shiho Oyama, who are tied for second place.
For those big-hitters that will be playing over the weekend, hope is not lost. The course dried out significantly during the day on Friday, as the high reached into the mid-80s with plenty of sunshine, and the USGA is notorious for changing up the course for the final two rounds. Lancaster Country Club has several holes with multiple tee boxes, which will give tournament organizers plenty of opportunity for tinkering.
“I know the tees will be moved around and there’s a couple of par-fours that hopefully, they’ll move up, so that they’ll be reachable,” said Piller. “It’s like any U.S. Open. There are holes that there is a green light and there are holes where you’ve got to play to the fairway, hit the green, get your two-putt, and get out of there.”