There are certain things you can count on at any U.S. Open:
ankle-high rough, long layouts and, especially at the Women's
Opens, numbingly slow play during the first two rounds. At
Colonial in Fort Worth in 1991, the waiting game got so bad
during the first day that, just to make a point, Lori Garbacz
ordered a pizza on the 14th hole, and it was delivered while she
waited on the 17th tee.
So while the traffic jams last Thursday at Pine Needles were
hardly appreciated, they were not unexpected. "The course
changed a lot during the day," Beth Daniel said after her round,
"which I guess is not atypical for a five-hour-and-20-minute
round of golf."
The delays stem from the fact that all players go off from the
1st tee in most USGA events. Kendra Graham, the USGA's director
of women's competitions, says split tees (groups beginning
rounds on both the 10th and 1st holes) is not an option because
"the course architect intended golf to be played from 1 to 18,
with everyone playing the same holes in the same sequence."
Unfortunately, that isn't always practical. In the first round
of the '93 Women's Open at Crooked Stick in Carmel, Ind., that
policy resulted in a disaster: For the first time lack of
daylight, not bad weather, prevented a field from finishing an
entire 18 holes. Rounds lasting 5 1/2 hours were the norm, and at
one point the wait on the 6th hole was 40 minutes. The USGA was
so disturbed when 15 players had to finish the first round on
Friday, that the field was reduced to 150 from 156 the next year.
While play never had to be suspended because of darkness at Pine
Needles, the players' patience was sorely tested. A rash of
out-of-bounds shots and unusual rulings--several involving a
grounded TV blimp that kept getting in the way--helped create a
horrific front-nine average of more than three hours on
Thursday. Though all 150 players completed play, a picture of
the last group standing on the 18th green in the twilight at
nearly 8:30 p.m. suggested a new meaning for the phrase being
COLOR PHOTO: J.D. CUBAN Emilee Klein and her caddie had to sit tight when the first round of the Open lasted five-plus hours.