Just to show you how important putting is, the co-leaders after the first round of the Nabisco Dinah Shore are Pat Hurst, who just got a putting tip from her mother, and Rachel Hetherington, who just started using a new putter with a nickel-titanium insert.
After one round of the LPGA's first major of the year, it is clear that help is where you find it--whether it's a mother watching videotapes of her daughter or golf nerds in lab jackets messing with the periodic table of elements.
Whatever. Anyway, Hurst and Hetherington put up matching four-under-par 68s Thursday at Mission Hills Country Club, which was good enough for a one-shot lead over Liselotte Neumann and Sherri Steinhauer.
Four players are tied at 70--Helen Alfredsson, Jane Crafter, Dawn Coe-Jones and Helen Dobson. Nancy Lopez, Karrie Webb and Donna Andrews are in a group of six tied at 71.
Mission Hills is tough enough any day, but for the first round, the rough was up and so were the scores. Only 14 players in the field of 106 beat par.
That Hurst and Hetherington had the best luck can't be coincidence, not after the putting help they received. Kiyoko Hurst noticed a flaw in her daughter's putting motion while watching a videotape of Hurst playing. Even though her mother is not a teaching pro, doesn't know much about golf and rarely plays, Hurst paid attention.
"I wouldn't listen to everybody," Hurst said. "But she's a miracle-worker."
Hetherington is an Australian, a one-time junior player along with Webb. Webb has won seven times on the LPGA Tour and led the money list, but Hetherington is trying to establish herself in her sophomore year.
But in Australia, they're not seen as so different. They get equal billing on the Australian LPGA calendar, pictured side by side.
After three years and two victories on the European Tour, Hetherington may be ready for a breakthrough, although the fanfare needs a little work. There were a total of 18 in the grandstand when she finished at No. 18 just before 6 p.m.
"Actually, it was pretty quiet all day," Hetherington said.
It was not quiet last week when Neumann beat Rosie Jones in a playoff at Phoenix after knocking an eight-iron to three feet on the third extra hole.
The way Neumann putts, it wasn't all that hard to roll the ball into the hole to win it. In fact, about the only really difficult task Neumann faced came just before the awards ceremony when she had to avoid accidentally stepping on Pee Wee, her minuscule pet dog, and thus aerate him with her spikes.
As it turns out, there are no holes in either her dog or her game right now. Neumann is feeling pretty darned good about the state of her golf, not to mention her position as the leading money winner with $247,096.
"Obviously, it's always nice to come into a major when you won the week before," Neumann said. "Obviously, my confidence is very high right now."
Obviously. Meanwhile, others may be questioning their own just about now, among them Annika Sorenstam, who bogeyed the last three holes to finish with a four-over 76 low-lighted by a 40 on the back.
Laura Davies played the four par-five holes in even par and finished with a three-over 75, the same as Jones, U.S. Open champion Alison Nicholas and Kris Tschetter, last year's runner-up to Betsy King.
Steinhauer is sponsored by the manufacturer of a permanent marker pen, which might come in handy for endorsing the winner's check of $150,000--if she is able to win the second major of her 13-year career.
Steinhauer won the 1992 du Maurier Classic, but she hasn't had an LPGA victory in four years. She finished her opening round on a positive note by making a 25-foot birdie putt, which might not be all that unexpected--Steinhauer has familiarity on her side.
The Madison, Wis., native spends her winters at Indian Ridge in Palm Desert and she was around enough to have played Mission Hills often since October.
"I pretty much know all the bounces out there," she said.
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Dinah Shore Leaders
Scores in relation to par after the first round of the $1-million Nabisco Dinah Shore, played on the 6,460-yard, par 36-36--72 Mission Hills-Dinah Shore Tournament Course:
Pat Hurst: 33-35--68 -4
Rachel Hetherington: 34-34--68 -4
Sherri Steinhauer: 36-33--69 -3
Liselotte Neumann: 35-34--69 -3
Jane Crafter: 35-35--70 -2
Dawn Coe-Jones: 34-36--70 -2
Helen Dobson: 35-35--70 -2
Helen Alfredsson: 36-34--70 -2