PINEHURST — Stacy Lewis did her homework on Pinehurst No. 2 by watching TV.
Lewis saw how Martin Kaymer tamed the course during his runaway victory last week in the U.S. Open. So she decided to use the same strategy that Kaymer used.
“I liked watching the men last week because I think I play a lot — I like to hit a cut a lot like Kaymer does,” Lewis said. “So on a lot of those holes, it was cool to see the plan I had laid out in my head, he was kind of doing the same thing. So it was nice coming into the week knowing that my plan was going to work on this golf course. I thought that somebody can run away with this. If you’re hitting the ball well enough, you can definitely run away with it. At the same time you have to know par is a good number and keep grinding away.”
Lewis didn’t have a bogey en route to firing a 3-under 67 in Thursday’s opening round to take a 1-shot on Michelle Wie. Katherine Kirk, So Yeon Ryu and amateur Minjee Lee are all tied for third at 1-under. Five others are at even par, including Paula Creamer and Karrie Webb.
Play was suspended with 30 golfers still on the course because of an early-evening storm that hit the area. Candie Kung and Stephanie Meadow are in the group at even. Kung was on the 18th, while Meadow was on the 17th.
The 30 players will conclude their first rounds at 6:45 a.m. today. The second round will start at the same time on the first and 10th tees.
Lewis, the No. 1 player in the world, hit 17 of 18 greens in regulation and averaged 1.78 putts per hole in her round. Lewis is searching for her third major championship. She won the 2011 Kraft Nabisco and last year’s Women’s British Open.
Lewis credited her success in the first round to being able to manage her game and the course.
“It was such an easy day. I played really, really solid, other than I had to make a few par putts, I ran some putts by, got them above the hole,” Lewis said. “But other than that I didn’t put myself in too bad of spots and made a few birdies, which was nice.
“Coming into the week I knew par is never a bad score at a U.S. Open. So even if I had a couple of holes I had some 10-, 15-footers I didn’t make for birdie, instead of getting frustrated, I told myself it’s an easy par, it’s a U.S. Open, it’s fine. So I really just stayed patient and stayed relaxed out there and hit, really, coming in, hit some really good iron shots coming in.”
Wie birdied the 18th to post her 2-under 68. Wie is attempting to win her first major championship after finishing second at the Kraft Nabisco Championship earlier this year.
“I think I definitely work hard out there, and that putt that I made on 17 felt really great and gave me good momentum going into 18,” Wie said. “But, yeah, that’s what U.S. Open is all about. You just have to get yourself in those par positions, make those putts, and see what happens.”
Wie added when she hit a bad shot or had the ball take a bad bounce into the native grass or roll off the green, she would make the smart play.
“It’s a tough golf course. You just need to go out there and try to make pars and birdies,” Wie said. “I felt I played well. Even the bogeys I made, sometimes stuff like that happens. I just didn’t hit a great chip shot on the par-5 (fifth) and it rolled all the way back to the bunker. Actually made a pretty good bunker shot. Stuff like that will happen. I have to have the mentality that stuff like that is going to happen, I just have to think positively that happens. But it was fun today.”
Creamer agreed with Wie about course management and felt the fairways and greens were firmer for the opening round than during practice.
“I hit a lot of great shots out there, a couple of careless — not careless, but just didn’t hit a good iron shot,” Creamer said. “You know, I bogeyed my last hole. But it’s going to happen. I’m not going to beat myself up over it. I made some really good saves and hit some really good shots. I would say that we had to change our strategy as the day went on, just because it was getting so much firmer. It was hot today and the ball was just bouncing a little bit more than it has the last couple of days.”
Inbee Park got off to a rocky start to attempt and defend her title with a 6-over 76. Park carded four bogeys, two double bogeys and two birdies in her round.
She believes her chance of repeating may have vanished but hopes to hang around for the weekend.
“I definitely need some lower numbers to put myself back into position,” Park said. “But I think my plan has definitely changed. My plan will be making less bogeys tomorrow and trying to just stay out of the trouble. Not so much about the trophy now anymore, just trying to keep it into play.”
Lucy Li, the youngest qualifier in U.S. Women’s Open history at the age of 11, shot an 8-over 78 and is 11 shots behind Lewis. Li had two birdies, three bogeys, two double bogeys and a triple bogey in her round.
“I learned that you’ve got to be patient,” Li said. “One shot at a time. Try to get rid of the big numbers. And, yeah, I learned a lot.
“It was good today. It was kind of tough, but I was able to hang in and the score was OK.”
Reach sports editor Shawn Stinson at 910-997-3111, ext. 14 or on Twitter @scgolfer.