PARADISE ISLAND, Bahamas (AP) — Heather Bowie Young made five straight birdies while hop-scotching across the golf course Friday in the Bahamas LPGA Classic.
Bowie Young made birdies on half of the 12 holes the LPGA Tour set up Friday for a 6-under 39 at the Ocean Club, giving her a one-shot lead in the middle of a long, strange opening round that had no chance of finishing because of a three-hour delay.
“I can remember trying to shoot 39 for nine holes, and that’s happened this year,” Bowie Young said. “I’ve shot well over that for nine holes.”
This tournament is different in so many ways.
Severe flooding earlier in the week left much of the course under water. The LPGA decided to use the holes that were available, and two of those holes had to be converted into par 3s because bunkers had caved in from a foot of rain that fell in a five-hour stretch Tuesday night.
The hope was to complete three rounds of 12 holes to make the inaugural event official. On the LPGA Tour, 36 holes have to be completed for it to count. Even with a short course, that goal looked to be in trouble when a large, black cloud moved over the course and rumbled with thunder, leading to the long delay.
The last group was to tee off about 6:30 p.m.
Anna Nordqvist ran off three straight birdies early in her round and closed with a birdie for a 5-under 40, tied with Lisa McCloskey. A half-dozen players at 41 included Suzann Pettersen and Brittany Lang.
Nordqvist fared much better than the other two players in her group — Inbee Park and Stacy Lewis, Nos. 1 and 2 in the women’s world ranking. Park failed to make a single birdie in her round of 1-over 46. Lewis was going along fine until the par-5 11th, her sixth hole. She pulled her second shot just into a bunker, leaving an awkward third shot from about 50 yards that had to clear another bunker. She clipped it clean, and it sailed over the back of the green and into the water, leading to double bogey.
Lewis birdied her next two holes and had a 1-under 44.
The LPGA Tour signed up Pure Silk and the Bahamas Tourism Ministry as title sponsors and wanted to do all it could to play golf in the first year of this event, even if that meant going to extremes of playing a 12-hole course with the holes out of sequence to help with the flow.
Everyone teed off on No. 10, and then headed to the front nine.
Park was leaving the green when she stopped to make sure she knew where she was going — a 120-yard walk across a waste area to the sixth tee. They played sixth and the seventh, and then headed over to the fourth hole. And that’s when it got really crowded.
At one point, there were nine players in a 50-yard radius.
Morgan Pressel was in the second group, which was coming off the third green and headed to the eighth tee.
“We’re just going to play through,” Jacqui Concolino said with a smile to Park, Lewis and Nordqvist. They were walking off the seventh green and headed to No. 4. Juli Inkster, Catriona Matthew and Candie Kung were approaching the seventh green. There was a lot of traffic.
The Lewis trio got into carts, because the tee on par-4 fourth hole was moved to about 130 yards of the green. There was standing water in the fairways — it looked more like small ponds — though the problem was a large bunker right of the green that was unplayable. Tour officials couldn’t afford players going into the bunker, and they made the muddy mess easier to avoid by making it a short par 3.
That’s what surprised the players the most. Most of them were on board with a 12-hole course — remember, Prestwick was only 12 holes when the British Open was played on the links 15 times back in the day — in an effort to have a tournament. They just didn’t realize there would be five par 3s. It felt like an executive course.
What made them unaware was that storms earlier in the week kept some of them from getting in a full practice round.
“Of the 12 holes that we played, I think I had seen seven and I had not seen five,” Bowie Young said. “So maybe I shouldn’t play practice rounds anymore.”
Laura Davies had a 2-under 43. She was all smiles on her way to the golf course, and full of a few quips.
“This should be a lot of fun,” Davies said. “I just hope I don’t get disqualified if I can’t find my way to the next tee. I’ll just walk slow and follow everybody else.”
LPGA Tour commissioner Mike Whan is trying to avoid a Monday finish because several players have U.S. Women’s Open qualifying early next week.
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