Letter casts long shadow over major championship

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BETHLEHEM, Pa. --- Play hasn't started, yet it's shaping up to be a long week for the players at the U.S. Women's Open -- on and off the course.

Lorena Ochoa prepares to hit during Wednesday's practice round. Ochoa took part in a meeting last week that led to a letter that called for the resignation of LPGA commissioner Carolyn Bevins.  Associated Press
Associated Press
Lorena Ochoa prepares to hit during Wednesday's practice round. Ochoa took part in a meeting last week that led to a letter that called for the resignation of LPGA commissioner Carolyn Bevins.

The women's national championship kicks off today on the long, narrow fairways and undulating greens of Saucon Valley County Club, which will play more than 6,700 yards to a par 71.

But it's not the typically tough U.S. Golf Association setup that is causing players' angst, or fear of the miserable weather that swamped the U.S. Open at Bethpage in June.

It's the brouhaha launched by a faction of key players calling for LPGA Tour commissioner Carolyn Bevins to resign.

Nearly every player doing interviews has faced questions about the controversy, which Golfweek magazine first reported on Monday.

According to the magazine, key players sent a letter to the LPGA board saying the tour's woes can't be blamed on a poor economy and that the LPGA needs a new leader to rebuild relationships with sponsors.

The tour has lost seven tournaments since 2007.

Top-ranked Lorena Ochoa took part in the players' meeting that spawned the letter and stepped up Wednesday to address the swirling controversy that threatens to overshadow the championship.

Ochoa said the players want a more active role in moving the LPGA Tour ahead.

"We as players, we want to be more involved in what is happening and we want to see the tour going in a better direction," said Ochoa, whose best finish in a Women's Open was a tie for second in 2007.

"There's not much we can do. I believe they will do the best for us, and hopefully things will start, you know, moving in a good direction, because we are worried that we're losing tournaments and we want to get back on a good track."

Most players sidestepped questions about the letter and the fallout. Some, like defending champion Inbee Park and Cristie Kerr, said they won't comment out of respect for the USGA event.

LPGA Championship winner Anna Nordqvist declined to comment because she is a rookie.

Paula Creamer said she's concerned about tour events, but declined further comment, saying it is "out of my control."

The LPGA Tour also issued a statement Tuesday, saying the focus this week should be on the Open.

AT A GLANCE

SCHEDULE: Today-Sunday

COURSE: Saucon Valley Country Club, Old Course, Bethlehem, Pa. (6,740 yards, par 71)

TELEVISION: ESPN (Today-Friday, 2-6 p.m.) and NBC-Ch. 26 (Saturday-Sunday, 3-6 p.m.)

2008 WINNER: Inbee Park


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