U.S. WOMEN'S OPEN
Rounds 1 and 2: Five Groups to Watch
June 30, 2016
By David Shefter, USGA
Here are five groupings that are sure to draw attention when the 71st U.S. Women’s Open commences at CordeValle in San Martin, Calif. (starting time listed first is for opening round on Thursday, July 7, second is for Friday, July 8; all times PDT):
Se Ri Pak, So Yeon Ryu, Na Yeon Choi (8:11 a.m., Hole No. 10; 1:36 p.m., Hole No. 1)
It’s fitting for the Grand Dame of women’s golf in the Republic of Korea – who owns 39 worldwide victories – to be grouped with a pair of protégés in her 19th and final U.S. Women’s Open start. Pak, who received a special exemption from the USGA, inspired a generation of Koreans when she claimed the 1998 U.S. Women’s Open at Blackwolf Run in Kohler, Wis. Pak was the only Korean player competing on the LPGA Tour at the time, and today the circuit has dozens of players from the small Asian country. Ryu and Choi followed their countrywoman by winning Women’s Open titles in 2011 and 2012, respectively, the latter at Blackwolf Run. Korean golfers have won six of the last eight Women’s Opens.
Lexi Thompson, Brooke Henderson, Lydia Ko (2:03 p.m., Hole No. 10; 8:28 a.m., Hole No. 1)
Three of the game’s brightest young talents – all major champions – should provide plenty of star power during the first two rounds. Ko, 19, of New Zealand, is the world’s No. 1 player, has won two of the last three majors and is coming off a three-stroke win in the Walmart Northwest Arkansas Championship on June 26. The 2012 U.S. Women’s Amateur champion already owns 13 LPGA Tour victories and, were it not for a playoff loss to Henderson in the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship, she would be heading to CordeValle looking for her third major victory of 2016. World No. 2 Henderson, 18, of Canada, carded a final-round 65, then birdied the first extra hole to win the Women’s PGA at Sahalee Country Club outside of Seattle and become the second-youngest major champion, behind Ko. World No. 4 Thompson is the elder stateswoman of the group, at 21. She won the 2008 U.S. Girls’ Junior at 14 years of age and claimed her first major championship two years ago at the ANA Inspiration at age 19. The seven-time LPGA Tour winner leads the circuit in driving distance at 284.2 yards.
In Gee Chun, Hannah O’Sullivan (a), Stacy Lewis (8:39 a.m., Hole No. 1; 2:14 p.m., Hole No. 10)
Lewis, a two-time major champion who owns three top-3 finishes in nine U.S. Women’s Open starts, fills in for the injured Inbee Park in the traditional pairing of the reigning U.S. Women’s Open (Chun), Women’s British Open (Park) and U.S. Women’s Amateur (O’Sullivan) champions. A thumb injury forced Park, a two-time Women’s Open champion and seven-time major champion, to withdraw from the competition. Chun, of Korea, came from behind to win last year’s championship at Lancaster (Pa.) Country Club by a stroke over countrywoman Amy Yang with a final-round 66. Park and Lewis tied for third. O’Sullivan, 18, of Chandler, Ariz., defeated Sierra Brooks, 3 and 2, in last year’s Women’s Amateur final at Portland (Ore.) Golf Club. A member of the 2016 USA Curtis Cup Team, O’Sullivan is No. 1 in the Women’s World Amateur Golf Ranking™.
Jenny Shin, Ariya Jutanugarn, Minjee Lee (8:28 a.m., Hole No. 1; 2:03 p.m., Hole No. 10)
All three of these U.S. Girls’ Junior champions have posted victories in 2016. 2011 champion Ariya Jutanugarn, 20, of Thailand, became the first golfer in LPGA Tour history to have the first three victories of her career come in consecutive starts. Jutanugarn, whose older sister, Moriya, is also in the field, moved up to No. 7 in the Rolex Women’s World Golf Rankings, thanks to wins in the Yokohama Tire Classic, Kingsmill Championship and LPGA Volvik Championship. Lee, the 2012 Girls’ Junior champion, claimed her second LPGA Tour title in the Lotte Championship in Hawaii on April 16. The 20-year-old from Australia is currently No. 13 in the Rolex Rankings. Jenny Shin, 23, a native of the Republic of Korea, finally broke through for her first LPGA Tour win on May 1, when she fired a final-round 67 to claim the Volunteers of America Texas Shootout. The 2006 Girls’ Junior champion turned professional six years ago after graduating from Torrance (Calif.) High School.
Michelle Wie, Angela Stanford, Sandra Gal (1:41 p.m., Hole No. 10; 8:06 a.m., Hole No. 1)
Although she hasn’t won since her memorable 2014 U.S. Women’s Open victory at Pinehurst No. 2, and has struggled in 2016, Wie is always a fan favorite. The long-hitting Hawaiian, who graduated from Stanford University just up the road from CordeValle in 2012, became the youngest winner of a non-junior USGA championship when she captured the 2003 U.S. Women’s Amateur Public Links at age 13. The 38-year-old Stanford, a five-time LPGA Tour winner, is still seeking her first major title, but she’s been close on several occasions. In 16 U.S. Women’s Open starts, she owns four top 10s, including a runner-up showing when she fell in a playoff to Hilary Lunke in 2003 at Pumpkin Ridge Golf Club in North Plains, Ore. She has 11 top-10 finishes in majors. Gal, 31, of Germany, has one LPGA Tour title and finished third in the 2012 U.S. Women’s Open at Blackwolf Run.
David Shefter is a senior writer for the USGA. Email him at email@example.com.