U.S. WOMEN'S OPEN
Michelle Wie tops a list of four golfers with ties to Hawaii competing in the U.S. Women's Open, which begins today, weather permitting. She is joined by Stephanie Kono, Kimberly Kim and Ayaka Kaneko.
Weather warning at Women's Open
Rain may put a damper on the start of the LPGA's third major of the year
NEWPORT, R.I. » Newport Country Club yesterday was in the process of possibly becoming one big unplayable lie on the eve of the first round of the U.S. Women's Open.
Steady rain throughout the morning and more forecast for later in the day and this morning jeopardized the start of the four-round event, which includes Hawaii golfers Michelle Wie and amateurs Ayaka Kaneko, Kimberly Kim and Stephanie Kono.
U.S. WOMEN'S OPEN
Where: Newport, R.I.
Course: Newport Country Club (6,594 yards, par 71).
Purse: $3.1 million.
Winner's share: $560,000.
Television: ESPN (Today-tomorrow, 8 a.m.-noon; Monday, if necessary, 6 a.m.-playoff conclusion) and NBC (Saturday-Sunday, 9 a.m.-noon).
But a top USGA official said he did not foresee the tournament spilling into next week, as it did in 1987 when Laura Davies won an Open that was concluded on Tuesday.
"Everything in the forecast for Friday through Sunday actually is looking pretty good," said Mike Davis, USGA senior director of rules & competition. "If things don't go well (Thursday), could we carry over Round 1 into Round 2 (on Friday)? Sure. There's always time to make up, particularly on the weekend."
The Newport area has received more than 13 inches of rain in the past five or six weeks, Davis said, including 3.7 inches last weekend. Parts of the course were still wet before yesterday's rain.
"With an extra inch, how is the course going to play? It's already going to be a very long golf course," Davis said. "I think it's fair to say it can probably handle a quarter-inch, maybe half an inch without really too much problem. If we truly get the inch, then we're going to have severe puddling out there and probably some bunkers that are going to need to be pumped.
"It's going to be a wet, long U.S. Open, at least tomorrow," Davis added.
Wie, who was scheduled for an early tee time today, finished tied for 23rd in last year's Open after going into the final round tied for first. The Punahou School student said she doesn't like the rain but will call on experience from bad conditions in last year's Women's British Open, where she finished third.
"The British Open was cold, rain, wind," she said. "At least I have that tournament under my belt, playing in the rain. Hopefully it doesn't rain. But if it rains I'm just going to play through it."
Aloha to Hawaii qualifiers?: Several sources say the three-year run of Hawaii sectional qualifiers for both U.S. Opens could end because of a lack of numbers of participants.
But USGA executive director David Fay said yesterday the fate of the islands' qualifiers -- which have produced just one player to make the cut in either championship -- has not been determined.
"All aspects of our championship qualifiers will be reviewed in the fall at our staff meeting," he said. "We've made no decision on that."
Parker McLachlin (2004), Henri-Pierre Soero (2005) and Tadd Fujikawa (2006) have qualified for the U.S. Open out of the Hawaii sectional. None made the cut in the championship event. But Fujikawa, at 15 the youngest golfer to play in a U.S. Open, became one of the biggest human interest stories early in the week at this year's tournament.
The Hawaii sectional has qualified Ria Quiazon (2004), Kaori Higo (2005), Amanda Wilson (2005) and Stephanie Kono (2006) to the U.S. Women's Open. Japan pro Higo made the cut last year at Cherry Hills and finished tied for 58th.
Kono topped a field of four golfers at Ko Olina in the smallest of eight sectional qualifiers across the nation this year. Nine golfers participated in the Hawaii local qualifier.
Fujikawa emerged atop a field of 10 at the U.S. Open Hawaii sectional.
Kono said she doesn't feel added pressure to perform well this week to help save the Hawaii qualifiers.
"Not really, I'm just going to try to make the best of this opportunity," she said.
Kaneko and Kim advanced from the local qualifier in Phoenix, with Kaneko qualifying for the championship via the Baltimore sectional and Kim getting in through the West Bloomfield, Mich., sectional.
Wie received an exemption to play in this year's Women's Open and did not have to qualify. She fell short at a sectional in her bid to play with the men at Winged Foot after advancing from the Oahu local qualifier.
Hawaii State Junior Golf official Mary Bea Porter, who is also a USGA rules official, successfully lobbied for the Hawaii qualifiers, and hopes they still exist next year. It's a question of geographic fairness, she said.
"I made a presentation showing it costs around $10,000 for a player from Hawaii to qualify," Porter said.
No clubs, no problem:
Kim practiced with borrowed clubs on Tuesday, since hers had not arrived from Colorado, where she finished second at the U.S. Women's Amateur Public Links.
Monday's practice round was the first time Wie and Kim had seen each other since playing together in a pros and juniors event in conjunction with the Sony Open two years ago, when Kim teamed with Peter Jacobsen and Wie with Adam Sandler.
"I was shocked that she remembered me," Kim said.
Wie said she was pleasantly surprised when she saw she was practicing with Kim, the youngest player in the field at 14.
"She grew a lot from the last time I saw her and she's improved a lot. I think she's a great player now."
Who's your caddie?:
Turtle Bay Pro Matt Hall is on the bag for Kim this week.
Her sister, Waiakea graduate Christine, caddied for her last week. Christine will attend Colorado in the fall and play golf there.
Third time a charm:
Kaneko, 16, made it into the Women's U.S. Open this year after two earlier attempts at qualifying.
The Sacred Hearts Academy student has been here since last week Monday and played four practice rounds before the weekend rain.
"We decided this year would be the year," her father, Katsumi, said. "We focused everything on making it into this tournament."