Pine Needles Lodge & Golf Club--the terrain upon which Annika
Sorenstam won her second consecutive U.S. Women's Open--proves
that the terrors in golf are not necessarily those that come
lunging out of the shadows with red eyes and bared fangs. Built
in 1927 by the legendary Donald Ross, the par-70 Pine Needles
appears to present no great difficulty, but with only two par-5s
it plays much longer than 6,207 yards. Placid-looking greens
melt at the edges like a Salvador Dali watch and offer contours
so subtle that unsuspecting players eventually wilt.
Last week's case in point was the 2nd hole, a perfectly
straight, 414-yard par-4 requiring a slightly downhill second
shot to a wide, unprotected green. Fearing that their approach
shots would roll off the back, countless players wimped out a
club-length short of the green. For the tournament, the 2nd
played a half stroke over par.
On such a teasing track, a hot run can be unsustainable. The
first-round leaders, at 69, were Kim Williams and Beth Daniel.
Williams, accidentally shot in the neck 17 months ago, recently
had the bullet removed. Daniels wanted to have a thorn pulled
from her side. To enter the LPGA Hall of Fame, she must win
either three more tournaments, to reach 35, or one more major,
to go with her 1990 LPGA Championship. Both players shot 78 last
Friday and left Pine Needles on Sunday licking their wounds.
Neither hurt as badly as Betsy King, who shot 81-77 and missed
her first Open cut since 1980. The record crowds were left to
admire the play of Pat Bradley, Brandie Burton, Laura Davies,
Jane Geddes and Tammie Green. In the end, though, the player
least humbled by Sorenstam was Kris Tschetter, who matched the
Swedish star's final-round 66 to finish second. Not that
Tschetter ever thought she could catch the winner. "I kept
thinking, What golf course is she playing?" she said afterward.
A glimpse at Ross's original blueprints could have answered that
question. Sorenstam played Pine Needles as it must have looked
through a surveyor's transit in 1927: center line, all the way.
June 9, 1996