The final countdown is underway toward the 72nd playing of the United States Women’s Open Championship. A field of 156 is on hand at Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, New Jersey led by defending champion Brittany Lang, who bested Anna Nordqvist in a much-discussed playoff last year at CordeValle in San Martin, California.
Lang is seeking to become the first Women’s Open champion to successfully defend since Karrie Webb won back-to-back titles in 2000 and 2001. The 42-year old Webb is playing in her 22nd consecutive Women’s Open, the longest such streak of anyone in the field. Cristie Kerr, who won this championship 10 years ago, is also playing in her 22nd Women’s Open, although those appearances are not consecutive.
Catriona Matthew is playing in her 21st Women’s Open; at age 47 she is the oldest player in the field. The youngest is Rachel Heck who will be 15 years, 8 months and 21 days old on Thursday, the day of the opening round. There is one other 15-year old in the field, Anne Chen. She and Heck are among the 21 amateurs in the field.
There are 10 past Women’s Open on hand; Na Yeon Choi (2012), In Gee Chun (2015), Paula Creamer (2010), Eun-Hee Ji (2009), Kerr (2007), Lang (2016), Inbee Park (2008, 2013), So Yeon Ryu (2011), Webb (2000, 2001), and Michelle Wie (2014).
Wie is playing in the Women’s Open for the 14th time; the 27-year old has been playing in USGA events since age 10 and won the U.S. Women’s Amateur Public Links in 2003 as a 13-year old. She says the experience of having won a Women’s Open title will be an asset this week.
“Just having the memory of having won the U.S. Open in 2014 hopefully that will help me a lot this week,” she said. “It gives me confidence, knowing that I have done it before. It makes me really excited.
“The U.S. Open week has been my most important week of the year. I get excited about it. I try not to put so much pressure on myself as I most always do. I’m here to have fun and play some good golf.”
Danielle Kang arrives at Trump National off her win at the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship two weeks ago. It was her first professional win in 144 starts, although she won back-to-back U.S. Women’s Amateur titles in 2010-11. “I definitely had some anger and frustrations,” she said. “I’m not going to deny that. I just kept trying. I fought hard and worked hard.”
Kang also had to deal with the death of her father, who became ill with cancer in 2013 and eventually passed away. “I know my dad wasn’t around to see (her win) but all the hard work pays off eventually,” Kang said. ” He always said to me, ‘If you work hard, it will work out.'”
The Old Course at Trump National will play to 6,732 yards on the scorecard with a par of 72. The layout was designed by Tom Fabio and opened for play in 2004. It features wide fairways and spacious greens, that are expected to roll at 12-12.5 on the Stimpmeter. The rough will vary from 1 1/2-4 inches.
* This year’s Women’s Open purse is $5 million. The winner’s share will likely be in the neighborhood of $900,000.