A victory at the U.S. Women's Open would put Beth Daniel into the LPGA Hall of Fame. A victory for Kim Williams would help her shed the reputation as the woman with a bullet in her neck.
Daniel and Williams were the only two players who broke par in Thursday's first round as the Pine Needles course played to typical tough U.S. Open standards - firm, fast and with frightening rough.Their 1-under-par 69s were a stroke better than defending champion Annika Sorenstam, Michele Redman, Kris Tschetter, Brandie Burton, Jenny Lidback and Japanese amateur Riko Higashio going into today's second round.
Daniel, whose 32 career victories include the LPGA Championship, would move into the Hall of Fame with her second major title.
"Ask me about that on Sunday," she said after hitting an 8-iron on No. 18 and rolling in a 15-foot putt to tie Williams.
Williams would like to be asked about anything except the bullet that ricocheted into her neck outside an Ohio pharmacy in 1994 and was just removed last October.
"You know, I cannot get rid of this bullet thing," Williams said. "It's sad."
One way to get rid of that "bullet thing" would be to finally win a tournament after 10 years on the LPGA Tour.
Williams and Daniel survived an agonizing day in which two players were penalized for slow play, and the pace was bogged down even more by a series of bizarre rulings involving everything from a blimp-shaped balloon to tree roots and the more routine out-of-bounds calls.
"Over five hours of golf is not exactly what I would call ideal," Daniel said. "But it's part of what you have to deal with in a U.S. Open."
Williams got a break by teeing off at 9:20, the 15th group of the day, and played in about four hours.
"I made a lot of putts," said Williams, who opened her round with a birdie, a double bogey and a birdie and closed with a birdie on No. 18 after hitting a 7-iron to 15 feet.
"My caddie said, `Let's get this one' and I did," Williams said.
Daniel, playing in 5 hours and 40 minutes in the third from the last group, also got to 1-under-par with her birdie on No. 18., one of three she made on the back nine.
The course claimed several big names. Nancy Lopez, trying to win her first U.S. Open, shot a 77. Laura Davies and Karrie Webb, both two-time winners this year, both shot 74.
But with the course playing as difficult as it is (the average score was 75.65), they are far from out of contention.
While it was a good day for Williams and Daniel, it was a mess for the USGA.
First off, all of the big-name players were given late starting times so that they could finish during ESPN's 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. EDT televising slot. But by the time they were on the course, play was hopelessly backed up and they finished after TV went off the air.
Two players - Lynda Jensen and Holly Reynolds - were penalized two strokes each for slow play.
When the group of Lopez, Betsy King and Jane Geddes finished putting out on No. 4, there were still three groups waiting to hit on the par-3 fifth hole.