PINEHURST The U.S. Women’s Open power pairing appears to be Lydia Ko and Mike “Fluff” Cowan.
Caddie Cowan – distinctive with his walrus mustache – is normally on PGA Tour player Jim Furyk’s bag, so this is his second consecutive tournament at Pinehurst No. 2, which was host to the men’s U.S. Open last week.
Cowan, who caddied for Michelle Wie for one tournament in 2004, is helping Ko just this week. He’s not taking anybody’s job, as Ko doesn’t have a regular caddie.
“To me, if I feel a big connection with a caddie, that’s a big thing,” said Ko, the world’s third-ranked player. “A lot of the things I need to take ownership (of) and do for myself. But hopefully I’ll be able to find a permanent caddie along the way.”
The Ko-Fluff combo didn’t click too well during Thursday’s first round. Ko shot a 6-over 76.
Diaz in familiar place
Former Wake Forest golfer Laura Diaz, who is now a volunteer assistant coach for the Deacons, went directly to the driving range after shooting a 5-over 75.
Diaz, 39, has played well before at Pinehurst. She won the North and South Amateur on No. 2 in 1995.
Before her round Thursday, Diaz said she received a text message from her brother Ron Philo Jr., her caddie for the North and South Championship.
“This is where your confidence began,” the text read.
Two years later, Diaz was Wake Forest’s female athlete of the year, with the male honor going to a basketball player named Tim Duncan.
“I tell people that all the time,” Diaz said.
One of the last golfers to receive an invitation to play in the U.S. Open, Diaz’s career has slowed since the birth of her two children. But at this year’s Kia Classic, Diaz became the second player in LPGA history to have holes-in-one in the same event. She also became the first player in history to follow a hole-in-one with an eagle on the next hole. She also had an eagle two holes after the other ace.
“It was skill and luck combined,” Diaz said. “We all go out and try to hit the ball as close to the target as possible. I was fortunate enough that it went in four times that week.”
After a pair of double bogeys first round, two-time U.S. Open winner and defending champion Inbee Park is adjusting her goals.
“It’s not so much about the trophy now,” said Park after a 6-over 76 left her nine strokes behind leader Stacy Lewis. “I’m just trying to keep it in play.”
Park, ranked second in the world behind Lewis, immediately found trouble on the par-4 third hole, the first of her two doubles. She had a bad lie on her second shot, but flew the green on her approach shot. That ball settled into what she said was a footprint.
“I just didn’t have a shot from there,” she said. “Can’t hit it long, can’t hit it short.”
Park also doubled the par-3 ninth.
“It’s beyond disappointment,” she said. “Today was so quick and I just don’t know what happened. I was shocked how the golf course was playing. I didn’t feel like I played horrible, but the score is bad.”
Nerves don’t hold Ryu back
So Yeon Ryu has won a U.S. Open before. That doesn’t mean she’s not nervous while playing this week. In fact, a case of the jitters stayed with her the entire 18 holes Thursday.
“I didn’t really calm down,” said South Korea’s Ryu, who won the 2011 U.S. Open in a playoff against countrywoman Hee Kyung Seo in Colorado Springs, Colo. “I know I should find the reason, but I couldn’t calm down.”
Ryu relaxed enough to shoot a 1-under par 69 and is in a three-way tie for third behind Lewis and Michelle Wie.
“If you really want to play well, it can maybe mean you’re more nervous,” Ryu said. “I think that’s why I was nervous.”
The tournament’s first hole-in-one was made by Italy’s Giulia Sergas on the 164-yard 15th.
• Kelsey MacDonald, a qualifier from Scotland, quickly found out how tough Pinehurst No. 2 can be. On the first green, her 10th of the day, MacDonald’s chip went straight at the hole. It hit the flagstick, then bounced away, finally rolling off the deeply sloped green. MacDonald, on her way to a 16-over 86, ended up with a double bogey on the hole.
• LPGA players are a little more savvy with social media than their PGA counterparts. Many of the women have their Twitter handles inscribed on their golf bags.
“I’m from kind of the warm part of Australia, so I grew up with this. It’s not too bad.” – Katherine Kirk, who is from Brisbane, on the Pinehurst heat.
“You dummy!” – Michelle Wie, talking to herself after badly missing the 13th fairway into the natural vegetation. She recovered to par the hole.
Number to know
5 Players under par before play was suspended due to threatening weather at 7:12 p.m.
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