2023 U.S. Women’s Open: Dog loving, procrastinating, improved putting Bailey Tardy surprise leader
PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. – If you saw this coming, congratulations, you’re leading the U.S. Women’s Open.
“I mean, I could. Other people maybe not, but I’ve always believed in myself to win any tournament that I enter,” said Bailey Tardy, following a 4-under 68 to sit two clear of Hyo Joo Kim (71) and Allisen Corpuz (70) at Pebble Beach.
Tardy’s self-belief aside, this was not an easily envisioned scenario. Playing in her rookie season on the LPGA, the 26-year-old from the University of Georgia, had five rounds in the 60s and 11 rounds of 75 or higher entering this week’s championship.
She had five missed cuts and had a withdrawal (after an opening 85 in LA) in 10 starts.
Following rounds of 75-75 at the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship – making her 0-for-5 in making major cuts – Tardy posted a smirking photo of herself on Instagram with the caption: “Might be soft smiling but might also want to chuck my putter in the woods.”
The putter was put in timeout for a few days but survived. The headcover, however, was vanquished, replaced by what can de described as nothing less than inspirational.
“There’s a ‘Simpsons’ donut on it, and it’s Homer’s head and then a ‘Simpsons’ donut,” she said.
Tardy said she worked extensively on her putting during the bye week between majors and that something “clicked.” What, exactly, she didn’t detail.
Whether it was something technical, feeling better with AimPoint (which she has used throughout the season but not religiously), a putter that learned its lesson or a tasty headcover, the results have been noticeable.
She’s tied for second in the field in putting and has also gotten up and down on 6 of 8 occasions when missing the green.
But it’s more than just renewed confidence in her short game; it’s a trusty aggressiveness with her driver.
Though Pebble Beach forces players to think strategically off the tee – to be in the optimum spot to best approach the minute greens – Tardy is taking advantage of her length. She hit two drives over 300 yards on Friday and was able to use lesser clubs to play for position. She also leads the field in strokes gained: approach the green, picking up 8 shots on her rivals.
Tardy was in the first group out in Round 2, starting on the first hole at 7 a.m. local time. There were few people watching and little wind blowing. It was the ideal time to take advantage of Pebble Beach, and she did.
After coming home Thursday night on the front nine in 33, she went back out on the same stretch and played it in 31.
Tardy birdied the first hole from 9 feet, made a 20-footer for birdie at the third and then, after a bogey at No. 5 from a greenside bunker, eagled the par-5 sixth for the second consecutive day.
Tardy hit her drive 306 yards and placed her 184-yard approach shot to 4 feet. She then hit her tee shot at the par-3 seventh to 3 feet and wrapped her outward half with a 323-yard drive at the ninth, followed by an 8-foot birdie putt.
With both the gallery and the breeze strengthening on the back nine, Tardy made eight pars and one bogey.
“I’ve obviously felt nerves, but I think I’ve always been taught … the more nervous situations that you have, that’s what you’re playing for. That’s the positions you want to be in,” she said.
The pressure wasn’t evident in her demeanor. She appeared constantly at ease, often enjoying the scenic atmosphere. The Southerner loves the chill, NorCal vibe. Almost as much as she adores dogs.
Full-field scores from the U.S. Women’s Open
“There’s a lot of seals and otters and fun water life out here,” she responded when asked what she spent time admiring between shots. “I don’t know, there’s – the dogs. Oh, my gosh, and the dogs. I love dogs. I have one myself, but obviously she doesn’t travel with me.
“But the dogs on – is it [on Nos.] 9 and 10? They’re amazing. There’s probably 15 dogs down there and they’re just having the time of their life running in sand and the water.”
Tardy got her first chance to experience the “good boys fetching sticks” in November at the TaylorMade Pebble Beach Invitational. The following week, she embarked on the eight-round LPGA Q-Series, finishing second to earn her tour card.
The accomplishment was made more special considering she had finished 11th and 12th, respectively, the last two seasons on the Epson Tour, with the top 10 advancing from the developmental to the primary circuit.
The struggle to get to the LPGA continued with struggles on the LPGA. And as qualifying neared for this major championship, Tardy wasn’t overly interested in making an attempt.
“I haven’t played in [a qualifier] for a while because I don’t like them. So I think it was just a little bit of procrastination. I knew there was going to be a site that I could sign up. I didn’t know which one to pick. You have a ton,” she said.
“But no, I just wanted one in my off week. And, I mean, my mom could tell me, You need to sign up, you need to sign up, you need to sign up, and then I just never did. That’s just kind of how it happened. Big ol’ procrastination.”
Because of the late consideration, only two sites were options: Bellerive in St. Louis or Somerset Country Club in Minnesota.
She chose the latter and when she bogeyed her 36th hole, she figured that was that. Thanks, Mom.
“I actually had a flight out that night. I had showered, I had changed, I had packed my golf clubs, and I was out. I’m first alternate. Get me home. I’m done. I’m tired,” she recalled.
“But then, I think Jennifer Chang three-putted that last hole, so I was like, Oh, my gosh, I’ve got to go hit golf balls. I’ve been sitting down for an hour and a half. So I threw golf clothes back on, found my golf shoes, hit about 15 balls, and just went and played four more holes, which felt like an eternity.”
She made a 20-footer for birdie on her 40th hole of the day to advance.
And now, she’s here. In the lead at the U.S. Women’s Open.