Cleat Geeks

Off the Tee: U.S. Women’s Open

One look at the top players in women’s golf tells an obvious story. It’s an even more international mix than what’s seen from their male counterparts.USWomensLogo

New Zealand, Canada, Korea, the United States, Thailand, China, Australia, Sweden, Norway, England, Taipei, and Japan are all represented within the top 30 spots in the world rankings.

Those top players from literally all around the world will converge in Cordevalle, Calif., this week for the U.S. Women’s Open, arguably the biggest event on the schedule.

Picking a favorite is tough, given the number of quality players atop the game. Or, perhaps it isn’t, as a look back to the most recent LPGA major is a good place to start, with a 19-year-old and an 18-year-old making a huge impact at their young ages.

Lydia Ko won’t turn 20 until next April but already has 18 wins in professional tournaments, the first coming when she was a 15-year-old amateur. She’s a two-time major winner and nearly got a third in May.

But at the Women’s PGA Championship, Ko found herself on the wrong end of a playoff defeat to Canadian Brooke Henderson, five months younger than Ko but already establishing herself in a big way at just age 18.

Henderson won again last week in Portland for the third LPGA win of her young career. She is No. 2 and Ko No. 1 in the Rolex World Rankings for women’s golf.lydia-ko-brooke-henderson-1280x850

“Getting the major championship win just a couple weeks ago in Washington and knowing that I can win a major championship was definitely a huge momentum changer and confidence boost,” Henderson said after her win in Portland.

“And then coming off a win here, I think it’s really is going to give me a lot of confidence. I know the U.S. Open, it takes a lot of skill, patience, and I’m really excited for it.”

Inbee Park, No. 3 in the world rankings, is one of the many strong Asian players on the tour. Fellow Korean In Gee Chun, ranked 6th, won the U.S. Women’s Open last season.

No. 7 Ariya Jutanugarn of Thailand was third at the PGA, one shot behind Ko and Henderson. That result followed an amazing month of May in which Jutanugarn won all three events the LPGA conducted.

The top Americans on the list are Lexi Thompson (4th) and Stacy Lewis (8th). Lewis, a University of Arkansas product, finished second to Henderson last week in Portland and is a two-time major winner. While she’s still considered one of the top American threats, she’s actually gone two years without a victory on the LPGA Tour.

With the PGA Tour off this week due to the deadly flooding in West Virginia forcing cancellation of the Greenbrier Classic, this is a perfect week for golf fans to focus on the women’s version of the sport and a tour that is loaded with quality and good competition.

 

Picks

Lydia Ko – It’s hard to go against No. 1, and we can’t do it here, either. Ko’s career has already been amazing at this young age, but this would be her biggest victory so far if she can do it.

AmyYangAmy Yang – She’s been close numerous times in the U.S. Open, including a runner-up finish last year. Yang is 9th in the world rankings and has four top-three finishes this season.

So-Yeon Ryu – Like her countrywoman Yang, the Korean has been steady this season with six top-10s. And experience helps, and Ryu’s first professional win in America came at this event, the 2011 U.S. Women’s Open.

Gerina Piller – Known by some as a former contestant on the Golf Channel reality show “The Big Break,” Piller has had her best professional season with six top-10 finishes, including a second in Texas.

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