SHOAL CREEK, Ala. (Reuters) - Shoal Creek finally re-opened for practice rounds on Wednesday afternoon as players scrambled to get in last-minute preparations for what looms as a waterlogged U.S. Women’s Open.
The course was closed late on Monday afternoon and remained off-limits on Tuesday as it was drenched by more than four inches of rain from sub-tropical storm Alberto.
More rain Tuesday night and Wednesday morning - an additional 1.62 inches - kept the course closed until 1 PM local time (1800 GMT), when players were allowed to begin practice rounds.
The U.S. Golf Association (USGA), which runs the championship, says it is still intending to conduct the event without preferred lies, otherwise known as lift, clean and place.
“It remains our intention to play 72 holes and to play the ball as it lies,” said USGA senior managing director John Bodenhamer, who expressed confidence play would begin on time on Thursday morning, assuming it remains dry overnight.
Some players will tee off without the benefit of even one full practice round, something that did not seem to bother American Danielle Kang.
She received a verbal instruction manual on how to play the course in a telephone conversation with PGA Tour player Trey Mullinax, an Alabama native.
“He walked me through the whole golf course, from one to 18. I feel like I’ve played it,” said Kang, who won her first major last year at the Women’s PGA Championship.
“He’s helped me out on what pins to attack and what to be conservative on,” Kang said. “And also which parts of the course to be avoided at all costs.”
Whether preferred lies should be allowed has been a hot topic among players the past two days.
Cristie Kerr, the 2007 champion, said that it would be a “joke” if players were not given the chance to clean mud from their balls.
Australian Karrie Webb was a little more diplomatic.
“I will say that it will be the softest U.S. Open I’ve ever played,” said the 2000 and 2001 champion.
“I’m mentally preparing that we might play it down (no preferred lies).”
Eight-times PGA Tour winner Brad Faxon weighed in on the side of preferred lies, pointing out that the tradition of playing the ball as it lies at major championships was broken in the final round at the 2016 PGA Championship at Baltusrol.
“I wouldn’t have a problem at all (with preferred lies),” Faxon, here as a television analyst for Fox Sports, told Reuters.
“It’s something the USGA has never done and they don’t want to start now.
“If they play one or two rounds with the ball up, I don’t think that takes away (from the stature of the championship).
“We just did some stuff out on the golf course and there seems to be casual water every step you take.
“I don’t know how you can play a fair golf tournament, because I know mud affects the players’ shots. If it’s consistently muddy, it’s a big issue.”
Reporting by Andrew Both, editing by Ed Osmond