The 71st U.S. Women’s Open is less than two weeks away, and world No. 1 Lydia Ko tuned up with a three-stroke victory in the Walmart Northwest Arkansas Championship on Sunday in Rogers, Ark.
The 2012 U.S. Women’s Amateur champion, who shared the 36-hole lead with 2005 U.S. Women’s Amateur champion Morgan Pressel, carded a final-round, 3-under 68 to best Pressel and 2001 U.S. Women’s Amateur Public Links champion Candie Kung. Pressel (2005) and Kung (2009) are also U.S. Women’s Open runners-up.
Ko will be looking to claim her first Women’s Open title and third major championship in the last nine months when she tees it up at CordeValle in San Martin, Calif., July 7-10. The 19-year-old from New Zealand won the Evian Championship last fall to surpass Pressel as the youngest major champion at 18 years, 4 months and 20 days. She then rallied to win the ANA Inspiration in March before losing a playoff to 2014 U.S. Women’s Amateur runner-up Brooke Henderson in the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship in early June.
“I think it gives me a lot of confidence,” said Ko, whose best Women’s Open finish is a tie for 12th at Lancaster (Pa.) Country Club in 2015. “The last three events, I played really solid. I came really close in Seattle [in the Women’s PGA Championship]. I’m kind of excited for the week off. I’m super excited for CordeValle. I think it’s a great golf course and I hope a lot of fans come out and support us.”
Ko pulled into a tie with Pressel by shooting a 9-under 62 in Saturday’s second round. Five birdies over her first eight holes on Sunday enabled her to pull away from her pursuers. Ko, who earned her third LPGA Tour win of the season and 13th of her career, posted a 17-under total of 196.
Angela Stanford, the 2003 U.S. Women’s Open runner-up, tied for fourth with 2011 U.S. Women’s Amateur runner-up Moriya Jutanugarn.
Minjee Lee, the 2012 U.S. Girls’ Junior champion, tied for eighth.
Els Nearly Rekindles Congressional Magic
Ernie Els woke up on Sunday with a chance to win for the first time in the U.S. since 2010, and to do so at a place that is near and dear to his heart. However, Els, 46, shot a 1-over 72 in the final round of the Quicken Loans National on the Blue Course at Congressional Country Club to finish in fifth place. Els won the 1997 U.S. Open at Congressional for his second U.S. Open title. Billy Hurley III, a 2005 USA Walker Cup Team competitor, shot a final-round 69 to win his first PGA Tour event. Els entered the final round two strokes behind Hurley, the 54-hole leader, thanks to a Saturday 65 that included zero bogeys and what will likely be remembered as one of the most memorable shots off 2016.
Following an outward-nine of 2-under 34 on Sunday, Els was just a stroke back of the lead before hitting his tee shot in the water on the par-3 10th hole, which he famously two-putted for par during the final round in 1997, when it served as the layout’s 18th hole. It led to a double-bogey 5 and set the stage for a second-nine 38, putting a halt to his victory aspirations.
Els started the final round of the 1997 U.S. Open two strokes behind Tom Lehman. He fired a 1-under 69 to finish one stroke ahead of Colin Montgomerie, becoming the 14th player to win multiple U.S. Open titles. He was one of five players in the field this weekend who had competed in the 1997 championship, joining runner-up Vijay Singh, 2003 U.S. Open champion Jim Furyk, Stuart Appleby, and Davis Love III.
Webb Simpson, who made his U.S. Open debut at Congressional in 2011 before winning the title at The Olympic Club the following year, finished alone in sixth. Jon Rahm, who earned low-amateur honors in the U.S. Open at Oakmont Country Club last week, finished tied for third in his professional debut.