Inbee Park struggled to play 10 practice holes in Monday's 100-degree heat at the Country Club of Charleston, and then found herself too tired to venture out to sample Charleston's famed dining scene.
"It's really hard to get yourself outside the dining room because you are just so exhausted after playing the golf course," said Park, a two-time winner of the U.S. Women's Open.
"I really didn't expect this kind of weather in May. So I think it's going to be a little bit of a surprise to everyone, but the summer has begun."
Summer is not yet officially here, but the time is already right for record heat and drought, a huge part of the story at this week's U.S. Women's Open. The heat is challenging for players, caddies, fans and the grounds crew at the Country Club of Charleston.
"It feels like 105 degrees out there," said U.S. star Lexi Thompson, who managed to play 18 holes on Tuesday. "I mean, I'm from Florida, but it was still tough for me out there."
Temperatures hit 100 degrees on Monday, got nearly as high on Tuesday and are expected to remain in the 90s the rest of the week. In addition, the Charleston area has gotten only about half as much rain as usual through this time of year.
It can be a dangerous combination.
"Extreme heat today," read a weather advisory on scoreboards around the course. "Please take precautions and drink plenty of water."
The USGA's John Bodenhamer, senior managing director of championships, said he had no concerns about losing control of the course despite the heat and drought.
We do not. We feel really, really good," he said. "Shannon Rouillard, our championship director, who oversees the golf course, and the golf course superintendent here are in close touch.
"In speaking with players this morning, I think every one of them spoke about firmness and felt like they probably had an expectation of seeing it a bit firmer. I think that the golf course superintendent here has got a great handle on it. The Bermuda (grass) is growing rapidly. We think we couldn't be in a better place. It's not too firm, and it's just about perfect."
Fight the heat
Park, a Korean who has won seven major titles in her career, had to battle just to finish 10 holes on Monday.
"This golf course, we're going to have to really fight the heat this week," she said Tuesday. "The weather is really, really hot. I really struggled to play 10 holes yesterday in the heat. I'm just trying to get my body ready for the tournament, and I think it's just going to be a really, really hot week."
Park said it's important for players to pace themselves so that they don't burn out before the tournament even starts on Thursday.
"You just drink a lot of water and try not to burn yourself up before Thursday," said Park, who won the Women's Open in 2008 and 2013.
"I know that I really want to see the golf course as many times as I can. But at the same time, you kind of have to avoid yourself from doing that, because playing 18 holes three times before the tournament will definitely burn you out."
Pumping it in
For Country Club of Charleston course superintendent Paul Corder and his crew, the recent drought has been as much of a challenge as the record heat wave.
According to the National Weather Service, there has been 7.46 inches of rain at the Charleston International Airport this year. That's a deficit of 8.38 inches over the normal 15.84 inches the Lowcountry would experience by this time of year.
"Six months ago, we were begging for it to stop raining," said the Country Club of Charleston's Frank Ford III, general chairman of the U.S. Women's Open. "And now it hasn't rained in three months, so it does present some challenges."
Chief among those is keeping the grass adequately watered, and preventing the greens from getting too crispy in the heat.
"Our water supply is critical, like at any course," Ford said. "With the evaporation of water from the ponds, we are pumping it in as fast as we are pumping it out at the same time to do the things we need to do.
"But I think we have it under control, and I think the temperature is going to roll over a little bit for us. I think it will be okay."
For the USGA, which runs the Women's Open, the heat and drought have fed into its goal of making the major championship a difficult test for the world's best golfers.
"It's fast and dry, which is what we hoped for," Ford said. "This is what the USGA wants. The firmer and faster the golf course is, the tougher it will play.
"It might play shorter, but you have to be straighter and have to know what you are doing with your irons."
Fast and firm fairways might also cause balls to roll out into trouble. The USGA's goal is for 2½-inch rough around the fairways.
"When a golf course is wet like it was six months ago, the ball just lands in the fairway and stops," Ford said. "Now, you are seeing it roll off in the rough a little bit.
"The idea is to have 2½ inches of rough, and we knew that would be a little bit of a challenge this early in the season," Ford said. "It might be a little inconsistent. You might have a 2-3 inch deep lie, or you might be sitting on top. But with the course this firm, even the good lies and the wispy rough, the ball will jump out of there and be hard to control."
Corder and the USGA also are keeping a close eye on the greens.
"The greens are great, and I think the USGA has them about where they want them," Ford said. "They are probably trying to pull in the reins a little bit, so they don't get too far too fast."
U.S. Women’s Open tee times
Thursday (May 30), Hole #1 – Friday (May 31), Hole #10
7:00 a.m. – 12:45 p.m. – Emma Talley, Princeton, Ky.; Ally McDonald, West Point, Miss.; Mariah Stackhouse, Riverdale, Ga.
7:11 a.m. – 12:56 p.m. – Sarah Schmelzel, Phoenix, Ariz.; Yu Liu, People’s Republic of China; (a) Yuka Saso, Philippines
7:22 a.m. – 1:07 p.m. – (a) Alexa Pano, Lake Worth, Fla.; Fatima Fernandez Cano, Spain; Jimin Kang, Scottsdale, Ariz.
7:33 a.m. – 1:18 p.m. – Nasa Hataoka, Japan; Mamiko Higa, Japan; Misuzu Narita, Japan
7:44 a.m. – 1:29 p.m. – Jane Park, Woodstock, Ga.; Lydia Ko, New Zealand; Carlota Ciganda, Spain
7:55 a.m. – 1:40 p.m. – Stacy Lewis, The Woodlands, Texas; Georgia Hall, England; Lizette Salas, Azusa, Calif.
8:06 a.m. – 1:51 p.m. – Cristie Kerr, Scottsdale, Ariz.; Anna Nordqvist, Sweden; Shanshan Feng, People’s Republic of China
8:17 a.m. – 2:02 p.m. – Sei Young Kim, Republic of Korea; Pernilla Lindberg, Sweden; Moriya Jutanugarn, Thailand
8:28 a.m. – 2:13 p.m. – (a) Jennifer Kupcho, Westminster, Colo.; (a) Sierra Brooks, Orlando, Fla.; (a) Maria Fassi, Mexico
8:39 a.m. – 2:24 p.m. – Jennifer Song, Orlando, Fla.; Celine Boutier, France; (a) Leonie Harm, Germany
8:50 a.m. – 2:35 p.m. – Karine Icher, France; Sandra Gal, Germany; Caroline Hedwall, Sweden
9:01 a.m. – 2:46 p.m. – Prima Thammaraks, Thailand; Maria Torres, Puerto Rico; (a) Karoline Stormo, Norway
9:12 a.m. – 2:57 p.m. – Jing Yan, People’s Republic of China; Jasmine Suwannapura, Thailand; Tiffany Chan, Hong Kong China
Thursday (May 30), Hole #10 – Friday (May 31), Hole #1
7:00 a.m. – 12:45 p.m. – Austin Ernst, Seneca, S.C.; Marina Alex, Wayne, N.J.; (a) Jiwon Jeon, Republic of Korea
7:11 a.m. – 12:56 p.m. – Supmas Sangchan, Thailand; Hayley Davis, England; (a) Ty Akabane, Danville, Calif.
7:22 a.m. – 1:07 p.m. – (a) Andrea Lee, Hermosa Beach, Calif.; Caroline Masson, Germany; Ryann O’Toole, San Clemente, Calif.
7:33 a.m. – 1:18 p.m. – Brittany Altomare, Tampa, Fla.; (a) Shannon Johnson, Norton, Mass.; Megan Khang, Rockland, Mass.
7:44 a.m. – 1:29 p.m. – Minjee Lee, Australia; Jinyoung Ko, Republic of Korea; Inbee Park, Republic of Korea
7:55 a.m. – 1:40 p.m. – Jenny Shin, Las Vegas, Nev.; (a) Patty Tavatanakit, Thailand; Anne Van Dam, Netherlands
8:06 a.m. – 1:51 p.m. – Ariya Jutanugarn, Thailand; Sung Hyun Park, Republic of Korea; Lexi Thompson, Delray Beach, Fla.
8:17 a.m. – 2:02 p.m. – Nelly Korda, Bradenton, Fla.; Brooke Henderson, Canada; Danielle Kang, Las Vegas, Nev.
8:28 a.m. – 2:13 p.m. – In Gee Chun, Republic of Korea; Amy Yang, Republic of Korea; So Yeon Ryu, Republic of Korea
8:39 a.m. – 2:24 p.m. – Esther Henseleit, Germany; Marissa Steen, West Chester, Ohio; Stephanie Meadow, Northern Ireland
8:50 a.m. – 2:35 p.m. – TBD Player 70,; Saranporn Langkulgasettrin, Thailand; (a) Gabriela Ruffels, Australia
9:01 a.m. – 2:46 p.m. – Pannarat Thanapolboonyaras, Thailand; Jenny Haglund, Sweden; TBD Player 75
9:12 a.m. – 2:57 p.m. – (a) Amanda Hollandsworth, Floyd, Va.; Babe Liu, Chinese Taipei; Charlotte Thomas, England
Thursday (May 30), Hole #1 – Friday (May 31), Hole #10
12:45 p.m. – 7:00 a.m. – Aditi Ashok, India; Haeji Kang, Republic of Korea; Ayako Uehara, Japan
12:56 p.m. – 7:11 a.m. – Chella Choi, Republic of Korea; (a) Kaitlyn Papp, Austin, Texas; Jeongeun Lee, Republic of Korea
1:07 p.m. – 7:22 a.m. – Hannah Green, Australia; Heather Young, Fort Worth, Texas; (a) Albane Valenzuela, Stanford, Calif.
1:18 p.m. – 7:33 a.m. – Hyojoo Kim, Republic of Korea; Jiyai Shin, Republic of Korea; Mi Hyang Lee, Republic of Korea
1:29 p.m. – 7:44 a.m. – Laura Davies, England; Karrie Webb, Australia; Leona Maguire, Republic of Ireland
1:40 p.m. – 7:55 a.m. – Na Yeon Choi, Republic of Korea; Brittany Lang, McKinney, Texas; Eun Hee Ji, Republic of Korea
1:51 p.m. – 8:06 a.m. – Jessica Korda, Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.; Azahara Munoz, Spain; Jaye Marie Green, Jupiter, Fla.
2:02 p.m. – 8:17 a.m. – Morgan Pressel, Boca Raton, Fla.; Gerina Piller, Roswell, N.M.; Paula Creamer, Pleasanton, Calif.
2:13 p.m. – 8:28 a.m. – Angela Stanford, Saginaw, Texas; Jodi Ewart Shadoff, England; Charley Hull, England
2:24 p.m. – 8:39 a.m. – Wichanee Meechai, Thailand; Ashleigh Buhai, South Africa; (a) Yuri Yoshida, Japan
2:35 p.m. – 8:50 a.m. – TBD Player 109; Dori Carter, Valdosta, Ga.; Ingrid Gutierrez Nunez, Mexico
2:46 p.m. – 9:01 a.m. – (a) Rose Zhang, Irvine, Calif.; TBD Player 113; Pornanong Phatlum, Thailand
2:57 p.m. – 9:12 a.m. – Megan Osland, Canada; (a) Megha Ganne, Holmdel, N.J.; (a) Megan Furtney, South Elgin, Ill.
Thursday (May 30), Hole #10 – Friday (May 31), Hole #1
12:45 p.m. – 7:00 a.m. – Lindy Duncan, Plantation, Fla.; Jacqui Concolino, Orlando, Fla.; Gaby Lopez, Mexico
12:56 p.m. – 7:11 a.m. – Lucrezia Colombotto Rosso, Monaco; (a) Jennifer Chang, Cary, N.C.; Delfina Acosta, Argentina
1:07 p.m. – 7:22 a.m. – Haruka Amamoto, Japan; (a) Celeste Dao, Canada; TBD Player 126
1:18 p.m. – 7:33 a.m. – Sarah Kemp, Australia; Nanna Koerstz Madsen, Denmark; Naomi Ko, Canada
1:29 p.m. – 7:44 a.m. – Bronte Law, England; Annie Park, Levittown, N.Y.; Amy Olson, Fargo, N.D.
1:40 p.m. – 7:55 a.m. – Hina Arakaki, Japan; Sakura Yokomine, Japan; Ai Suzuki, Japan
1:51 p.m. – 8:06 a.m. – Angel Yin, Orlando, Fla.; Jeongeun6 Lee, Republic of Korea; Pei-Yun Chien, Chinese Taipei
2:02 p.m. – 8:17 a.m. – Mirim Lee, Republic of Korea; Su-Hyun Oh, Australia; Katherine Kirk, Australia
2:13 p.m. – 8:28 a.m. – Suzuka Yamaguchi, Japan; Eri Okayama, Japan; (a) Nanako Ueno, Japan
2:24 p.m. – 8:39 a.m. – Yan Liu, People’s Republic of China; Jihyun Kim, Republic of Korea; (a) Dasom Ma, Republic of Korea
2:35 p.m. – 8:50 a.m. – (a) Reagan Zibilski, Springfield, Mo.; (a) Sabrina Iqbal, San Jose, Calif.; Amy Ruengmateekhun, Garland, Texas
2:46 p.m. – 9:01 a.m. – (a) Gina Kim, Chapel Hill, N.C.; Jiyu Jung, Republic of Korea; Olafia Kristinsdottir, Iceland
2:57 p.m. – 9:12 a.m. – Rachel Rohanna, Marianna, Pa.; (a) Auston Kim, St. Augustine, Fla.; Wei-Ling Hsu, Chinese Taipei