The moment the first tee shot is hit at 6:45 a.m. (ET) in the US Women’s Open Championship at the Pinehurst No.2 golf course on Thursday, it will make history—not only for women’s golf, but for the golf in these United States. For the first time ever, the United States Golf Association (USGA) will stage the Women’s US Open on the same golf course on which the men contested their championship just one week earlier. It is an experiment which, so far, has been met with positive reaction from everyone involved, with only the four days of the tournament itself standing in the way of pronouncing it a resounding success.
The move to the shared venue is mostly intended to showcase the women’s game, and it has already begun to work. Sunday’s broadcast of the men’s US Open final round featured many cut-aways to the practice green and driving range, which were being shared by both the men and women. Former world No.1 Rory McIlroy was heading to warm up on Sunday and had exchanges with Michelle Wie and Yani Tseng along the way. Saying he would like to see it happen more often, McIlroy remarked that “It’s a good thing for women’s golf to give them a little bit more exposure.” Sweden’s Henrik Stenson was on his way to the range when he spied Natalie Gulbis. “The range looks so different today,” said Stenson. For Gulbis’ part, she thinks it’s an important advancement for women’s golf—a leap which was taken years ago in tennis, “You saw what it did for tennis [when the men and women played together]. This is a groundbreaking step for us.”
Michelle Wie, who played in her first US Women’s Open at the age of 13, will be playing her first two rounds with Amy Yang of South Korea and Scotland’s Catriona Matthew. Wie, who is now 24-years-old, knows how much this week means to the LPGA, “It’s really cool. We’re definitely making history this year, so I’m really excited for our tour and for all of us girls playing this week.”
As for the competition itself, Inbee Park is the defending champion and her victory in the US Women’s Open last year was, at the time, her third major in a row. She will be grouped with world No.1 Stacy Lewis and amateur Emma Talley, teeing off at 8:02 a.m. from No.10.
Lexi Thompson was the winner of the first major in women’s golf this year, the Kraft-Nabisco Championship, and she said that win gave her a lot of confidence coming into this tournament, “The win…helped me out so much—[winning] under that kind of pressure and those circumstances…the US Women’s Open is a tournament I look forward to every year. Being an American and playing in your national championship, there’s nothing like it.” Thompson will go off of the No.1 tee at 8:02 a.m. on Thursday along with Australian Karrie Webb and So Yeon Ryu of South Korea.
Another bit of history will be made on Thursday as 11-year-old Lucy Li, the youngest girl ever to qualify for the US Women’s Open, tees off at 7:07 on No.10. She will play the first two rounds with Catherine O’Donnell of the US, and Jessica Wallace of Canada.
Golf Shots is a daily series which provides analysis and commentary on the PGA tour and golf-related topics all year long.
Commentary by Chuck Podhaisky