Back Nine Crucial Holes for Tomorrow’s Position
Several major personalities have found their way into the upper echelons of the U.S. Women’s Open. They are the sorts of personalities that are bound to, and should, appear about now. They all have game, but every human has a unique mentality, way of thinking, and pattern of responding to pressure. Even though there is a day of play left, eighteen holes get smaller and smaller if you are playing from too far behind, so as the leaders make the turn into the back nine of round 3, there are nine crucial holes within which to get a good position for Sunday. It won’t come down to just tomorrow. There’s a lot of today left on the back nine.
In the lead by three strokes is Amy Yang. Three strokes must be a great feeling, right? Not necessarily. There are twenty-seven holes left to get their hands on that trophy, and Yang has nerves. She also has a pattern of playing Cinderella, the early part of the story, that is. She’s contended enough in the big ones to demonstrate the ability, but apparently, she gets a case of unhealthy over-seriousness from time to time. Coach Larry Ziegler, of PGA fame, say that they talk about that a lot, and that she’s working on “lightening up.” That’s an odd combo, “working” to “lighten up.”
Three strokes back, also beginning the back nine, is Stacy Lewis a player who is not associated with folding. Super competitive, she has 11 tour wins, including two majors. She’s been likened to the Hall of Famer, Betsy King, and the two have become friends. It’s not such a bad deal, having a historical all-star believing that you’re a special player. The back nine may not seem so long, but if Lewis goes on a binge, as she has done on numerous occasions, she can make a mere nine holes count like nobody’s business. She may not be the number one as of late, but she hasn’t gone anywhere that would suggest she doesn’t constitute a major threat.
On the first day, Michelle Wie cautioned us not to eliminate her from the Sunday conversation, and she was right. The trajectory of her approach to this major, of which she is the defending champion, is not a very good one. In terms of preparation and physical condition, she limped in, and is playing well anyway. First, it was illness, strep throat, upper-respiratory infections, the whole nine yards. Then, it was injury. She wears an ankle brace, and has had to deal with a case of bursitis, just what every golfer wants. The result – a change in stance and swing adjustments shortly before a major. This is not an enviable path to the poll position, but if anyone can do it…
For the nationalistic types who want only golfers from their own country to win, Amy Yang’s three days of success must come as bad news. Those people might be missing the point. Inbee Park is playing the Women’s U.S. Open, too, and she makes a point never to play poorly in a major, much less any other tournament. One of the steadiest players in history, Park doesn’t do head trips on herself, as far as anyone can tell. Like Lewis, she can smell a trophy nine or twenty-seven holes away.
So, here they are, all four of them stepping up to the third round’s back nine, one protecting a three stroke lead, and three others determined to whittle that down for tomorrow. Any one of these women can put together the kind of birdie blizzard that makes an opponent want to sit down and cry, and one of them is likely to do it. At the least, it could be a war of attrition. The only question left – which one will it be, the one with the golden last twenty-seven. Will Cinderella finally go to the ball this year?