SI:AM | The Short Hole Giving Players Nightmares at the U.S. Women’s Open

Even the best player in the world got knocked down a peg.
Even the world’s top golfer, Korda, struggled, on the 12th hole.
Even the world’s top golfer, Korda, struggled, on the 12th hole. / via Golf Channel

Good morning, I’m Dan Gartland. I’m sure the NHL is thrilled about the long layoff before the NBA Finals. 

In today’s SI:AM:

😠 A very tricky golf hole
🤠 NBA Finals matchup set
🙄 More talk of changing March Madness

I would have picked up after the second lost ball

Nelly Korda is the No. 1 ranked women’s golfer in the world, but one hole at the U.S. Women’s Open at Lancaster Country Club in Pennsylvania humbled her in a major way during her first round on Thursday.

Korda (who started her round on the back nine) carded a whopping 10 on the par-3 12th. Ten.

Here’s how it went down: Her first shot flew through the green and landed in a bunker behind the putting surface. Her second shot rolled past the hole and off the front of the green into a creek, forcing her to take a drop from the fairway on the other side of the water. Her next shot hit in front of the green and rolled back into the water. Ditto for the shot after that. She was finally able to get the ball on the green with her eighth shot (including penalties) and then two-putted for 10.

It was a terrible start to Korda’s tournament and it derailed her entire round. She ended the day with a 10 over par 80, putting her in a tie for 132nd place out of 156 players.

“Not a lot of positive thoughts, honestly,” Korda said after her round. “I just didn’t play well today. I didn’t hit it good. I found myself in the rough a lot. Making a 10 on a par-3 will definitely not do you any good at a U.S. Open.”

Not that it’ll make Korda feel any better, but she was far from the only player to struggle on the 12th. It was the hardest hole on the course in the first round by average score to par, with players needing an average of 3.8 shots to put the ball in the cup. There were just 10 birdies and 77 pars on the hole. Nearly half of all players (44.2%) made a bogey or worse, including 32 doubles and 13 scores of six or higher. Of the 151 scores of double bogey or worse during the entire first round, 45 of them (29.8%) occurred on the 12th hole.

So what makes the hole so difficult? It isn’t long at all, playing at 161 yards on Thursday and 174 yards on Friday, and it’s a downhill tee shot, which can make picking the right club a bit tricky. But the biggest challenge is that the green is exceptionally shallow. It’s only about 20 yards deep, the shallowest on the course, and it plays even smaller than that because of the false front. Any shot that doesn’t have enough juice to hold the green will roll back into the creek. For that reason, it’s better to miss long than to miss short, but as Korda found out, the shot out of the rear bunkers back down the slope of the green is a scary one.

LPGA Tour player Mel Reid is working as a commentator for Golf Channel during the tournament and had a great breakdown of why the hole is so tricky.

The interesting thing is that the hole has been even harder this year than it has been in previous tournaments at Lancaster. When the course hosted the 2015 U.S. Open, it had more double bogeys than any other hole on the course: 31. This year’s tournament surpassed that number in just the first round.

And it isn’t just the 12th that’s causing problems for players. Only four players finished the first round under par and only 14 shot even par or better. The average score on the par-70 course was 75.2. Plenty of big names turned in some terrible first-round scores, including Lydia Ko (+10) and Rose Zhang (+9). Incredibly, though, the top of the leaderboard also includes a whole bunch of amateurs. Adela Cernousek of France, who just finished her junior year at Texas A&M, shot a 1-under 69 to tie for second. USC’s Catherine Park and Auburn’s Megan Schofill shot even-par 70s to join a 10-way tie for fifth place. And then there’s Asterisk Talley, a 15-year-old high school freshman from California who shot a 70 even with a triple bogey on the par-5 eighth.

“I feel like I could have done a lot better today, but I’m not mad at all about my round,” Talley said after her round. “Coming into the round I was hearing everybody say even par is a good round today. I wish I could have been a couple under par. With that triple I could have played a lot better but I’m happy with where I stand and I feel like that gives me confidence going into tomorrow.”

May 30, 2024; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Mavericks’ Kyrie Irving celebrates Western Conference title.
Irving will hear plenty of boos in Boston. / Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

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Dan Gartland


Dan Gartland is the writer and editor of Sports Illustrated’s flagship daily newsletter, SI:AM, covering everything an educated sports fan needs to know. Previously published on Deadspin and Slate, Dan also is a former Sports Jeopardy! champion (Season 1, Episode 5).