Pinehurst on show again at Women's Open
BY Bruce Young | LPGA Tour | 2014 US Women's Open | Preview | 17 Jun 2014
While there is still some debate as to which of the men’s major golf championships is the most significant in the game, this week’s US Women’s Open is, by some way, the most highly regarded and anticipated in the female game.
That it is being played at the same venue as that of the men a week ago adds even further intrigue and will ensure perhaps one of the event’s largest audiences both at Pinehurst and elsewhere.
Pinehurst No 2 will be played as a US Women’s Open venue for the very first occasion and other than a reduction in official length by some 900 yards to that played last week the layout will provide an insight into the comparisons between the male and female game at the elite level.
Many of those playing this week’s championship spent time at Pinehurst last week observing how the golf course might play but even for those who chose to stay away it may well be that they gained a lot of knowledge in front of their television screens, especially given the wall to wall coverage provided by NBC.
The defending champion is the current world number two, Inbee Park, who recorded her first win since last year’s US Women’s Open when she won the recent Manulife LPGA Classic in Canada with a final round of 61. There appears little doubting her readiness to successfully defend.
The great development in women’s golf in 2014 is the resurgence of the American golf after domination by players from South Korea, and elsewhere in recent years.
That resurgence is being led by the current world number one Stacy Lewis but the performances of Michelle Wie, Lexi Thompson, Cristie Kerr, Jessica Korda, Paula Creamer and Cristie Kerr have American golf back and, in all six, the USA has a great opportunity to win just its third US Women’s Open title in the last nine years.
While their chances appear strong, the international challenge is poised to continue its recent domination with Park, Lydia Ko, Suzann Pettersen, two time winner, Karrie Webb, Shanshan Feng, 2011 champion So Yeon Ryu, Anna Nordvist and Catriona Mathew to name a few all playing well enough and more than capable of taking this title.
Lewis does not enjoy a good record at the US Open, her efforts well below that she produces week in week out on the LPGA Tour. That is the only concern about her chances with only one top ten in seven starts in the event. It won’t stop her winning necessarily but it is perhaps surprising.
Inbee Park won this event by four shots last year and despite losing her number one status in recent weeks, that is perhaps more a reflection on Lewis’ great run of form rather than any real demise by Park. Park deserves to be one of if not the favourite to win another major championship having won three in 2013.
Lydia Ko has yet to win a major championship but she will before long and if it was this week then few would be surprised despite her tender age of 17. The world number three finished 4th in Canada two weeks ago and earlier this season won her third LPGA Tour title. Her time will come at this level but she is very likely to contend this week.
Michelle Wie has a horrible record in this event but she has been in such good form in 2014 that her record is almost sure to improve this week.
Karrie Webb’s most recent form is below that of earlier in the year but she is a proven big event player and as a two time winner of the US Open amongst her seven major championships then she must be given consideration.
Cristie Kerr has the mindset to win the battle against this field and a golf course where a tough grinding type of player succeeds. She has played well this season with several top tens and coming off the back of a top ten in Canada she might just be in the mix once again. Kerr has not only won this event she has often contended and might well do so again.
Lexi Thompson is another of the Americans who might do well this week. She has built a solid US Open record since first playing as a 12 year old in 2007 at the greatest event she could play and given the form she has shown this year she is an even better chance of confirming the promise she has always shown with victory in her national open. Having already won the opening major of the year at the Kraft Nabisco, Thompson could well secure her second major of the season.
The Australasian challenge is headed in terms of world ranking by Lydia Ko, in terms of experience by Karrie Webb and they will be joined by Katherine Kirk, Sarah Jane Smith, Stacey Keating, Nikki Campbell, Stephanie Na and the World number one female amateur, Minjee Lee.
A late addition to the field has been NSW’s Rebecca Artis who gained a start after finishing as first alternate at her qualifying venue then earning a spot on the forced withdrawal of one who had qualified ahead of her.