The first round of the 75th U.S. Women’s Open was well worth the wait. While some things were different in this championship delayed six months by COVID-19, the consistent factor was the quality of play. The best women in the world put on quite a show at Champions Golf Club, with 23 breaking par in Thursday’s first round.
Also, a lot that was different was new in an interesting way. By using two courses for the first time in this championship and by having a two-tee start on both Cypress Creek and Jackrabbit, there was a point Thursday when all 156 competitors were playing at the same time. There was no morning wave, no afternoon wave; just one wave of neck-high talent.
Here are 3 things to look for in Friday’s second round:
While the first round was played in rather receptive conditions, that’s not the forecast for Friday. Because the weather is predicted to be wetter, windier and not as warm, tee times for Round 2 were moved up 80 minutes to 8 a.m. Central Time. That also means a tweak in the TV coverage. Peacock, which was scheduled to begin its coverage at 1 p.m. EST will instead be live at 10 a.m. EST. Golf Channel will pick up the championship at 3 p.m. EST.
If the weather pans out as predicted – wind is forecast at 15-20 mph – those playing the slightly easier Jackrabbit Course could have an advantage. It had a stroke average 1.13 strokes lower than Cypress Creek on Thursday. While the wind could benefit power players, it will mostly suit those who control their ball best and maintain their best rhythm. Also, that wind will make putting the ball in the right place on the massive Cypress Creek greens a lot more challenging.
Going into Friday’s Round 2, there are 74 players at 2 over par or better. With 20 players tied for 55th place and the cut coming at the low 60 and ties, the cut is now at 2 over, but keep an eye on it as Friday’s round develops. It will almost certainly go up.
Right now, Mirim Lee, who won her first major at this year’s ANA Inspiration, 11-time LPGA winner Lexi Thompson and Minjee Lee – No. 8 in the Rolex Rankings despite not having a major – are outside the cut line. All three shot 3-over-par 74. Thompson has an advantage over the two Lees – she posted her 74 on the more difficult Cypress Creek Course.
If the expected storm materializes, the cut line could soar.
Hunt for Red December
While Amy Olson sits atop the leader board at 4-under-par 67, there is a logjam at the top with 23 players under par. But there are also several big names who failed to go into the red numbers on Thursday who can jump right into the middle of things going into the weekend with a solid round in Friday’s volatile weather.
Poised at 1 over par are 2011 U.S. Women’s Open champion So Yeon Ryu, major champions Brooke Henderson, Danielle Kang and hometown hero Stacy Lewis, as well as Jessica Korda, one of the LPGA Tour’s best players without a major. And they are not alone.
Lurking at 2 over par are defending champion Jeongeun Lee6, Rolex Rankings No. 1 Jin Young Ko and Nelly Korda.
While 23 players broke par on Thursday, it could very well be someone not currently in red numbers everyone will be talking about going into the weekend.
Ron Sirak is a Massachusetts-based freelance writer who frequently contributes to USGA digital channels.