PINEHURST, N.C. — When Rickie Fowler was hitting his final few shots on the practice range before Sunday’s final round, he walked to the first tee — and there were half a dozen players still working. Fowler was in the final group of the U.S. Open, so who could be left?
Alas, several of the competitors in this week’s U.S. Women’s Open began work at Pinehurst No. 2 on Sunday. Not only were they all over the practice facility, but several caddies and players walked the course after the men had played through, pacing off yardages and checking out the green complexes. A group of seven LPGA Tour players and some caddies walked inside the ropes with Fowler and Martin Kaymer in the final group.
This is the first time the U.S. Golf Association has played the two Opens in consecutive weeks on the same course. Before the women tee off — their tournament begins Thursday — there is more than a little curiosity about what the results will be.
“I hope putting them back-to-back works out,” five-time major winner Phil Mickelson said. “There’s a lot of exciting female players that will be competing next week, and their shot selection will be interesting, and their execution on such a demanding golf course will be interesting. And it’s fun to watch when you already know what the golf course is like and how it plays and where you can and can’t go.”
The U.S. Golf Association has not said whether it would try the experiment again. The U.S. Open has its sites scheduled through 2021, the Women’s Open through 2018.
“The golf course held up beautifully . . . in terms of its health,” USGA Executive Director Mike Davis said. “The greens could not be healthier. They will get a nice drink tonight, and I think we’re extremely well positioned for next week.”
Adam Scott, the world’s top-ranked player, closed with a 69 to finish 2 over and tied for ninth, his eighth top-10 finish in the 14 majors since the start of the 2011 season.
That marks the period when Scott began focusing on golf’s biggest events, which meant he plays less frequently.
He said Sunday he wouldn’t play again before the British Open next month, meaning he will skip the Quicken Loans National at Congressional Country Club, a stop he has traditionally made.
“Just changing this year,” Scott said. He added the Crowne Plaza Invitational at Colonial in Fort Worth, a tournament he won in a playoff, and took out Congressional.
Scott finished tied for 57th at Congressional a year ago. He said he won’t play in the United States again until the Bridgestone Invitational on July 31-Aug. 3. . . .
Zach Johnson made the only hole-in-one of the tournament — and the 44th in U.S. Open history — on the ninth hole, hitting a 7-iron pin high and watching it feed down and trickle in. Johnson, the 2007 Masters champ, had never made an ace in competition.
“It makes a pretty sour-to-average week a little sweeter, right?” said Johnson, who finished 9 over. “Especially on Father’s Day.” . . .
Leesburg native Billy Hurley III matched his best round of the tournament with a 71, but finished his first major 11 over, tied for 48th.