PARADISE ISLAND, Bahamas (AP) — Heather Bowie Young made five straight birdies while jumping from one side of the golf course to the other. Silvia Cavalleri was hitting the ball so well Friday she was sorry the Bahamas Classic was held on only 12 holes.
The slogan for the LPGA Tour is, “See why it’s different out here.” Was it ever.
Bowie Young and Cavalleri were tied for the lead at 6-under 39, which by numbers alone broke the LPGA scoring record by 20 shots. Not to worry. Annika Sorenstam’s 59 in Phoenix in 2002 still stands as the lowest 18-hole score in LPGA history.
“It was so bizarre,” Cristie Kerr said after the longest day on the shortest course.
Severe flooding earlier in the week left much of the Ocean Club 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 Bahamas Classic official. On the LPGA Tour, 36 holes have to be completed for it to count. Even with a 12-hole, par-45 course, that was going to be a challenge because of a three-hour delay for lightning.
Twenty-seven players failed to finish the round. The day ended with Na Yeon Choi sprinting to the final hole so her group could tee off before the horn sounded to stop play because of darkness. That’s not unusual. What was different was the routing. She was on the third green, and the final hole in the setup was No. 8, meaning Choi had to run around a lake, through some vegetation, behind the seventh green and across a dirt path.
If nothing else, she saw a beautiful sunset along the eighth fairway. And she finished.
The first round is to resume at 8 a.m.
Anna Nordqvist ran off three straight birdies early in her round for a 5-under 40, tied with three others. The group at 4-under 41 included Suzann Pettersen. More than one player smiled coming out of the scoring tent and mockingly celebrated their lowest round ever.
Bowie Young looked at it differently.
“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.”
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.
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.”
Kerr finally got going with two birdies on her last three holes for a 1-under 44. She arrived at the course at 11:30 a.m., unaware there was a storm delay, and spent five hours at the course before she finally teed off. The hardest part of her day was the scorecard.
There wasn’t time to make new scorecards to reflect the routing of the holes — 10, 6, 7, 4, 5, 11, 12, 13, 14, 2, 3, 8 — so she was filling in numbers that looked out of place.
“I had to check it six times,” Kerr said. “You’re putting a 2 or a 3 where it shows a par 5 and a 5 where it shows a par 3. But we all got it right. They’re doing the best we can with what we have. Everyone is here. Everyone wants to play.”
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.