Will Interlachen be Ochoa's US Open?
BY Bruce Young | LPGA Tour | 2008 US Womens Open | Preview | 24 Jun 2008
The third major of the year and the most significant event in women’s golf, the US Women’s Open, gets underway on Thursday at the Interlachen Country Club in Edina on the southern outskirts of Minneapolis, Minnesota, the first occasion the event has been played at the highly regarded layout.
Originally built in 1911 and designed by William Watson, then expanded by Donald Ross in 1919, the course underwent several changes in the early 1960’s under the direction of Robert Trent Jones. In 2008 the course will measure 6789 yards making it the longest course set up in the history of this event, surpassing the previous record at Cherry Hills in 2005, which measured 40 yards less.
The course is no stranger to top level tournament golf having played host to the US Open in 1930 and several significant USGA events in addition to the 1993 Walker Cup and the 2002 Solheim Cup.
Defending her 2007 victory this week will be Cristie Kerr, who finally converted several strong finishes in major tournament golf into her first win when she defeated Lorena Ochoa and Angela Stanford by two shots at the Pine Needles Golf Club in North Carolina. Kerr indicated her readiness for a stellar defence with a solid 5th placed finish last week in Pittsford, recording her best finish of 2008.
The favourite, and a golfer looking to win her first US Women’s Open Championship, will be the game’s hottest player and world number one, Lorena Ochoa, who, with six victories already in season 2008, arrives in Edina as the favourite. Ochoa’s length will be an asset on this monster layout but she has not become the most dominant player in the game without a brilliant all round game.
Perhaps surprisingly Ochoa’s record in this event is not up to her normal standards, with her inaccuracy from the tee working against her in the tight set ups of a USGA Championship. It is hard to believe she will not be contending this week however and she will start the favourite in most people’s eyes to win her third major championship in her last four starts in such events.
Annika Sorenstam has won this event on three occasions and although a little disappointing last week at the Wegmans LPGA event in New York, where she finished only 33rd, her earlier from this season gives her a great chance of making a statement in what may well be her final appearance in the US Open. Her decision to retire later this year may not yet preclude her from playing in future US Opens but a victory would be a fitting great way to say goodbye to this great tournament.
Suzann Pettersen has displayed a capacity to challenge in major championship golf and despite relinquishing a significant lead at last week’s Wegmans LPGA, her improved form there has her peaking at the right time.
With so many of the Korean golfers contending each week on the LPGA Tour, it is hard to pinpoint who might do well this week amongst them but certainly Jeong Jang has developed great consistency this season having finished three times runner up and twice third. She has been inside the top ten three times in this event and although she has had a few injury niggles this season, she could still do very well.
There will be much interest by Australian golf fans in the performance of now Florida based Korean, Amy Yang. Yang, who resided in Australia for three years, is currently second on the Ladies European Tour money list and returned to the US after her recent win in Germany to earn medallist honours at her qualifying venue for this event.
Yani Tseng’s win at the recent McDonald’s LPGA Championship was a hardly a surprise to those who knew of the significant talent the Taiwanese golfer possessed and it would be even less of a surprise if she was to repeat this week. She is one of the longer hitters on the LPGA Tour, an attribute of some benefit this week.
Paula Creamer, Maria Hjorth, Sophie Gustafson, Jee Young Lee and Hee Won Han are others who could well give this tournament a shake while amongst the Australians, two time US Open winner, Karrie Webb, could well figure in the finish.
Webb’s form has been somewhat of a rollercoaster this season but her recent runner up finish at the Ginn Tribute was encouraging. She is a proven big event player and has genuine claims to win her eighth major championship.
Of the other Australians, Lindsey Wright just keeps getting better and better and although bothered by a niggling shoulder injury at present, she has displayed a capacity to perform well in big events. Her accuracy and improved short game will work in her favour, although her lack of length from the tee could be an issue.
Rachel Hetherington has played well on occasions at this event in previous years but her current form is hardly enough to convince her admirers of a great week this week. There was an encouraging week developing at the recent LPGA Championship for Hetherington but she faded over the weekend.
Katherine Hull, Wendy Doolan and non LPGA Tour player, Rachel Bailey have done well to qualify via final qualifying and for Bailey, who plays the Duramed Futures Tour, this will be a particularly exciting week. From Faulconbridge in New South Wales, Bailey has generally battled on the secondary tour but this is a great opportunity for her in such a significant event.
The tournament carries prizemoney of US$3.1 million, befitting its place in the game and making it the richest event in all of ladies golf.