The 69th edition of the US Women’s Open is finally upon us. Although in theory all professional golfers and amateurs with established handicaps of 2.4 or lower are eligible to compete, most who seek to play in the premier event in American women’s golf must qualify. This year a record 1,702 women applied to the USGA for entry to the Open. With the exception of 79 players who were exempted from the qualifying process, those who will tee off on Thursday qualified at one of 24 sites, four of them international venues (Korea, Japan, Republic of China, and England).
The final field of 156 will contest the Championship at the Cradle of American Golf, Donald Ross-designed Pinehurst No. 2, which opened for play in 1907 and has been renovated and restored to its original condition by Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw. The par 70, 6649 yard course setup for the championship has a 78.1 USGA Course Rating™ and 145 Slope Rating®.
No. 2 will be available for practice rounds Monday, June 16 through Wednesday, June 18. Championship play will begin Thursday, June 19 and continue through Sunday, June 22, with 18 holes of stroke play each day. After 36 holes, the field will be cut to the low 60 scorers and ties.
Although defending champion Inbee Park is coming into the Open with a win last weekend at the Manulife LPGA Classic that included a record-breaking Sunday round of 61, the odds of back-to-back wins for Park at Sebonack and Pinehurst are slim.
With her 2013 US Women’s Open victory Park joined Babe Didrikson Zaharias as the only two women in history to win the first three majors in a season. She also became one of four women to win three majors in a calendar year, joining Zaharias (1950), Mickey Wright (1961) and Pat Bradley (1986).
Despite a stunning 2013 season, two-time US Women’s Open winner Park (2008, 2013) faces daunting odds as she tries for a 2014 victory. Since 1991, only two players have successfully defended their championship title (Annika Sorenstam, 1996 and Karrie Webb, 2001), and only three other players have finished in the top 10 in the championship following their victory (Juli Inkster, 2002; Patty Sheehan, 1992; Meg Mallon, 1991).
In a contest that will require mental strength, unshakable focus, and shrewd course management, the veterans are coming in with a decided advantage. Juli Inkster’s played in more US Women’s Opens that any other golfer in the field (35, championship record). Laura Davies, with 26 Open appearances, Cristie Kerr and Karrie Webb, both with 19, Catriona Matthew and Se Ri Pak, both with 18, will have no illusions about what it will take to stay in the field and play the weekend.
There’s another element in play at the US Women’s Open. The temperatures are going to soar into the high 90s every day, and predicted late afternoon thunderstorms will threaten delays. It’s the kind of weather that wears you down and here the younger players and those with morning tee times will have the advantage.
The six American golfers who already have at least one
2014 win on their resumes range in age from 19 — Lexi Thompson, who won the first major of the season, the Kraft Nabisco Championship — to 29 — Stacy Lewis, who’s claimed victories at the North Texas LPGA Shootout and the ShopRite LPGA Classic. As a group — Michelle Wie, Jessica Korda, Paula Creamer and Lizette Salas, as well as Thompson and Lewis — the Americans are all young, skilled, gritty, tenacious competitors and they all want this win. They have two more practice rounds before they’ll get started on their quest.