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US Open: LPGA stars get preview of Pinehurst No. 2

  • http://media.charlotteobserver.com/smedia/2014/06/15/21/40/1v7kXO.Em.138.jpeg|273
    Chris Seward - cseward@newsobserver.com
    Justin Rose imitates the late Payne Stewart’s pose from the 1999 U.S. Open after Rose birdied the 18th hole Sunday.
  • http://media.charlotteobserver.com/smedia/2014/06/15/21/19/14am4Y.Em.138.jpeg|206
    Chris Seward - cseward@newsobserver.com
    Women's golfers Brittany Lang, left to right, Jaye Marie, Belen Mozo and Brittany Lincicome watch as Martin Kaymer and Rickie Fowler play the fifth green Sunday during the final round of the U.S. Open at Pinehurst No. 2. They will play in the U.S. Women’s Open here next week.
  • http://media.charlotteobserver.com/smedia/2014/06/15/21/40/iRnVa.Em.138.jpeg|209
    Jeff Siner - jsiner@charlotteobserver.com
    The USGA wished a happy Father's Day to the men in the crowd Sunday on the scoreboard at the 18th green.
  • http://media.charlotteobserver.com/smedia/2014/06/15/20/56/19WntU.Em.138.jpeg|210
    Jeff Siner - jsiner@charlotteobserver.com
    Webb Simpson blasts out of the rough on the 13th fairway Sunday at Pinehurst No. 2 during Sunday’s final round of the US Open.

PINEHURST As Cristie Kerr was walking off the putting green Sunday, Lexi Thompson was walking on.

Behind them, a large video screen was showing Martin Kaymer hit an approach shot early in the final round of the U.S. Open at Pinehurst No. 2.

No, it was not your typical day at the Open.

The last time the U.S. Women’s Open was held in North Carolina, in 2007, Kerr was the winner and Thompson one of the best storylines as a 12-year-old qualifier. That Open was at Pine Needles Lodge and Golf Club, a few miles away in Southern Pines.

This time, it will be at Pinehurst No. 2 in the second of unprecedented back-to-back Opens, and Kerr and Thompson could be contenders for the major championship this week.

“This brings back great memories,” Kerr said. “It’s hot, hot, hot. I’ve played this course a bunch and can’t wait to see how it plays in competition.”

Kerr said she planned to hit some practice balls then go on the course to follow Erik Compton in the final round.

“Just study up on it a little,” Kerr said. “It’s an awesome course and it will be even more awesome under these conditions.”

LPGA pro Natalie Gulbis was one of the first to go on the practice range Sunday. Other players were scattered about the course watching the men.

After months of buildup to the U.S. Women’s Open at No. 2, Kerr said it did have a different feel Sunday, sharing the course with the men for a day.

“But I think it’s exciting,” she said. “You kind of get a taste of what it’s going to be like next Sunday.”

Willing stand-in

Toru Taniguchi of Japan had the solo tee time Sunday to kick off the final round but decided to have a playing partner.

Kelly Mitchum was more than happy to oblige.

A former N.C. State All-American, Mitchum played in the 1995 U.S. Open and tried, unsuccessfully, to qualify for this year’s Open – a big disappointment. A teaching pro at the resort, he wanted to be on No. 2 as a competitor, not a non-competing marker.

“But it was neat to go out and be able to play this morning,” Mitchum said. “It was fun. I hit some good shots, made a couple of birdies.”

Mitchum, who said he had a 79, wasn’t lacking for crowd support. He got the hometown treatment.

“They applauded me like I was in the field,” he said. “A lot of people were shouting my name, so it was good.”

Of note: Early last week Mitchum predicted Kaymer would win.

Pair of aces

Kenny Perry was playing with Peter Jacobsen in the 2005 U.S. Open at No. 2 when Jacobsen aced the ninth hole during the third round.

On Sunday, it was Zach Johnson. Perry again was the witness as Johnson scored a hole-in-one at the ninth, using a 7-iron on a hole listed at 172 yards.

It was Johnson’s third ace and first in competition, and it had the former Masters champion high-fiving fans along the gallery rope like Hale Irwin at the 1990 Open at Medinah (Ill.) Country Club.

“It makes a pretty sour to average week a little sweeter, right? Especially on Father’s Day,” said Johnson, whose 72 left him at 289.

Johnson noted his caddie made a wager with a friend during the week, betting $100 no one would have a hole-in-one during the Open. He lost the bet, but Johnson said, “The way he looks at it, (the ace) probably got the hundred back for him.”

And Perry seeing two aces?

“He’s a good-luck charm,” Johnson said.

Mighty week

Remember Fran Quinn? He was the 49-year-old who toyed with the lead during the first round and had his son, Owen, toting the bag.

After a 68 Thursday, Quinn followed with rounds of 74, 79 and 73 to finish at 14-over 294. But he left a happy man.

“It exceeded all expectations,” he said. “Just from the standpoint of having my son on the bag, being around the lead in the U.S. Open on Day 1 … It was something Owen and I will always remember and talk about for a long time. Until he’s leading the U.S. Open.”

Owen Quinn, 15, said he would caddie for his dad a couple of times this summer on the Web.com Tour. Dad wasn’t so sure.

“I think after this weekend, he’s fired me,” Fran Quinn quipped.

NUMBER TO KNOW

6 The number of shots Rickie Fowler needed at the par-4 fourth. After some wild shots from the sand, he needed to make a long putt for his double-bogey.

TRIBUTE TO PAYNE

The U.S. Golf Association again used the “Payne Stewart pin” at the 18th hole – that is, the Sunday pin placement from the 1999 Open, when Stewart holed his memorable winning putt.

Stewart’s victory pose – the right fist thrust out, the right leg kicked back – is memorialized by a statue behind the green. But Justin Rose, who birdied the 18th Sunday, had something else in mind.

After his putt, Rose recreated one of the most famous fist pumps in sports as a tribute. What a cool moment.

TARGET SCORE

For those wondering how tough No. 2 would be Sunday, Daniel Berger had an early answer: a 4-under 66.

Berger, a former Florida State golfer on the Web.com Tour, said it wasn’t a matter of No. 2 being “easy” but hitting the ball in the right spots.

“U.S. Opens are tough and the biggest key is hitting greens,” he said. “Today I hit a lot of greens, gave myself a lot of opportunities.”

Berger, 21, also was in for a late surprise. On the 18th hole, his caddie handed off the bag to Berger’s father, Jay.

“It was pretty cool, Father’s Day Sunday, Dad being here,” Berger said. “He doesn’t get to go to a lot of tournaments; he travels a lot, so for my first U.S. Open it was a great experience.”

QUOTABLE

“Golf’s hard. Winning majors is hard, otherwise everyone would have a handful of them, wouldn’t they.”

– Adam Scott, the No 1 ranked player in the world.

Alexander: 919-829-8945; Twitter: @ice_chip
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