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Eleven? It doesn't add up for No.1

Four days after Martin Kaymer's record-breaking exploits, history will again be made for more than one reason today when the US Women's Open gets under way at Pinehurst.

Not only is the event being held the week after the men's US Open on the same course for the first time, but 11-year-old Lucy Li will compete against the world's best after becoming the youngest player to come through qualifying.

Li shot rounds of 74 and 68 to win a sectional qualifying event by seven shots last month and will tee off at 7:07am local time today alongside her fellow American Catherine O'Donnell and the Canadian Jessica Wallace, relative veterans at 24 and 23 respectively.

Li already has some experience of a major championship venue after winning the girls aged 10-11 division in the inaugural Drive, Chip and Putt contest at Augusta that preceded the Masters this year. "I just want to go out there and have fun and play the best I can," she said. Asked whose idea it had been to enter qualifying, she added: "It was mine. I didn't care if I qualified or not. I just wanted the experience."

Li's appearance in a major cham­pion­ship at such a tender age has inevitably divided opinion, with world No.1 Stacy Lewis speaking out against it. "I'm not a big fan of it," Lewis said. "She qualified, so we can't say anything about that, but I like to see kids be successful at every level before they come out here. I just like to see kids learn how to win before they come to get beat up out here.

"When I found out she qualified I said, 'Well where does she go from here? You qualify for an Open at 11, what do you do next?' If it was my kid, I wouldn't let her play in the US Open qualifier at 11, but that's just me."

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