Gathering clouds gave way to sunshine, the first of many surprises Thursday in a U.S. Women’s Open that didn’t go the way anyone expected, least of all Pat Hurst.Her day had a happy ending, one last birdie for a 6-under 67 and a share of the lead with Ji Young Oh.Annika Sorenstam twice made back-to-back bogeys and wound up with a 75, her highest first-round score in a Women’s Open since she opened with a 76 in 1992 at Oakmont when she was a 22-year-old amateur.
Gathering clouds gave way to sunshine, the first of many surprises Thursday in a U.S. Women’s Open that didn’t go the way anyone expected, least of all Pat Hurst.Her day had a happy ending, one last birdie for a 6-under 67 and a share of the lead with Ji Young Oh.Annika Sorenstam twice made back-to-back bogeys and wound up with a 75, her highest first-round score in a Women’s Open since she opened with a 76 in 1992 at Oakmont when she was a 22-year-old amateur.Lorena Ochoa and Cristie Kerr, who have combined to win three of the last four LPGA majors, played alongside an 18-year-old freshman at UCLA and couldn’t keep up. Maria Jose Uribe of Colombia, the Women’s Amateur champion, showed passion and fist pumps and hardly any fear on her way to a 4-under 69 that kept the gallery riveted.Michelle Wie even got in on the act.One minute she looked like she was on the road to recovery, the next minute she crashed to a quintuple-bogey 9 at the turn that sent her to an 81, the second straight year she failed to break 80 in the opening round.“It was just one bad hole. And it’s a U.S. Open,” Wie said. “It will bite you in the butt.”Hurst was chewing herself out early in the round, never imagining she would have anything to smile about in the late afternoon sun over Interlachen. She missed yet another short putt — the very reason she hasn’t made a cut since the last week in May — and began complaining to her caddie about a vicious cycle she couldn’t shake.“I was whining,” she said. “I was being a golfer.”Hurst rolled in a 35-foot birdie out of nowhere that kicked off a stretch of 6 under through seven holes. She looked over at her caddie with surprise and mock disgust, then kept right on rolling.“It just turned it all around right there,” she said.She birdied the 16th hole, reached the par-5 18th in two with a 3-wood for a two-putt birdie, then took advantage on the consecutive par 5s on the front nine. Hurst hit a slight fade with her 7-wood up the hill to a right hole location on the par-5 second and made a 15-foot eagle, then capped off her big run with a sand wedge to another elevated green that stopped 10 feet away.Before a gallery that grew quickly — they were waiting for Sorenstam, who was playing behind her — Hurst hit an 8-iron that hopped onto the fringe, rolled along the bowl-shaped green and settled 3 feet away for one final birdie and her lowest round ever in the Open.“There was never a point where I felt like I was going to go low,” said Hurst, whose previous best round was a 69.Song-Hee Kim was another shot back after a 68, while Louise Friberg, Ji-Yai Shin and Uribe were at 69. Laura Davies, who won the Open in 1987 and needs one more major to get into the World Golf Hall of Fame, was among those at 70.Thirty-two players broke par, the most for an opening round of the Women’s Open since 43 players shot under par in 1999 at Old Waverly in Mississippi.The Donald Ross design has five par 5s, which helps. The greens received a good dose of water overnight, and the overcast conditions made them even more receptive to approach shots.Oh was in the morning group and didn’t have to work terribly hard on the greens. All seven of her birdies were inside 10 feet, and four of them were inside 2 feet.“I love hitting my drivers and short irons,” Oh said. “And for that, I think this golf course suits my game pretty well.”Ochoa noticed the low scores on the leaderboards, and was asked if she was surprised.“I was just disappointed that it was not me,” she said. “Because it was playing fairly easy in the morning. For sure, I could have finished 2- or 3-under par and been in a better position. But I think it will come back. The U.S. Open is always tough, and I’m OK where I am.”Sorenstam has work to do.She was 2 under through seven holes, and putting cost her again. She had a 10-foot birdie putt on the 18th that she ran by the cup, and was stunned when her par putt swirled around the cup. She made back-to-back bogeys on the front nine, and thought she could at least end her day on a positive note with a beautiful approach to 6 feet on the ninth.She missed that one, too, and now finds herself eight shots out of the lead.“A few putts go in, it would have been a different story,” she said. “I’ve just got to be patient and get off to a good start tomorrow morning and keep it. I know I’ve got the game and I love the golf course. Long ways to go.”Hurst, 39, has been around long enough to know that her name atop the leaderboard on Thursday doesn’t mean much. She was thrilled to see her name at all after the start she had, but now is considering this week as a good omen. It was two years ago when she missed the cut a week before the Women’s Open, and she wound up losing an 18-hole playoff to Sorenstam at Newport.“I wasn’t expecting much, and I guess this week I wasn’t expecting much,” she said. “I just want to go out and play the best I can. I’ve been hitting the ball really well, just not scoring. If I can keep that flat stick going, it’s going to be good.”