US Women's Open Preview
A FIELD of 156 will compete for the US Women’s Open at Champions Golf Club in Houston, Texas. For the first time, the tournament will feature only exempt players, with all qualification events having being cancelled because of the coronavirus pandemic. And because of daylight restrictions at this time of year, the first two rounds will be played over two courses.
The 75th anniversary field boasts nine U.S. Women’s Open champions, while 42 players will be making their championship debuts in Houston. The 28 players who gained entry via the world rankings are Hae Ran Ryu, Sophia Popov, Ayaka Furue, Yuka Saso, Sakura Koiwai, Na Rin An, Song Yi Ahn, Erika Hara, Yuna Nishimura, Ji Hyun Kim, Anne van Dam, Alena Sharp, Lala Anai, Eri Okayama, Cristie Kerr, Pornanong Phatlum, Jun Min Lee, Ji Hyun Oh, Emily Kirstine Pedersen, Mi Jeong Jeon, Maria Fernanda Torres, Bo Ah Kim, Teresa Lu, Wei-Ling Hsu, Ye Rim Choi, Asuka Kashiwabara, Sarah Schmelzel, and So Yi Kim.
Hae Ran Ryu won the Jeju Samdasoo Masters in 2019 to earn her LPGA of Korea Tour card and successfully defended her title in August. The 19-year-old also has two runner-up finishes among her six top-10s this year. She will be making her U.S. Women’s Open debut.
Popov will be making her second U.S. Women’s Open start. Since turning professional in 2014, Popov has mainly played on the Symetra Tour, but she earned three tournament wins on the Cactus Tour during the COVID-19 break before earning her first major victory in sensational fashion at the AIG Women’s Open at Royal Troon in August. Pedersen has dominated a much-shortened schedule on the LET, winning four times, including three victories in a row at the end of the season. She is in wonderful form and will head to Texas with her confidence high. There should also be a strong English challenge, with Georgia Hall, Mel Reid and Charley Hull all showing some superb form recently.
(Inbee Park - Seeking Third US Women's Open Victory)
Kerr is one of the nine U.S. Women’s Open champions set to compete in Houston. The veteran earned her first major title in the 2007 U.S. Women’s Open at Pine Needles. Kerr has 20 LPGA Tour wins, including a second major at the Women’s PGA Championship in 2010. This is her 22nd straight Women’s Open appearance (25th overall), with seven top-10 finishes in addition to her victory.
The USGA announced in April that the tournament, oringinally scheduled for June 4-7, would be moved to December 10-13. To account for reduced daylight, the Jackrabbit Course at Champions Golf Club will be used in rounds one and two along with the Cypress Creek Course, which was originally slated to host all four rounds of championship play. In June, the USGA announced that the championship would be conducted without traditional qualifying and in October the USGA confirmed that the championship would not have fans on-site due to health and safety concerns resulting from the pandemic.
Considered the world’s premier women’s golf championship, the U.S. Women’s Open is one of 14 national championships conducted annually by the USGA. It was first played in 1946 and its winners include Babe Didrikson Zaharias, Betsy Rawls, Mickey Wright, Hollis Stacy, Amy Alcott, Meg Mallon, Annika Sorenstam, Se Ri Pak, Juli Inkster, Cristie Kerr, Paula Creamer, Inbee Park, Laura Davies and Michelle Wie.
The tournament is the penultimate event on the LPGA’s schedule, held the week before the CME Group Tour Championship in Naples, Florida. The LPGA has yet to allow fans since the tour restarted in July. The USGA also conducted the U.S. Amateur, U.S. Women’s Amateur and U.S. Open without spectators.
“Following extensive consultation with health officials, we have decided that hosting the U.S. Women’s Open without spectators will provide the best opportunity to conduct the championship safely for all involved,” said John Bodenhamer, the USGA’s senior managing director of Championships. “While we are disappointed that we won’t be able to welcome fans and their unmatched energy at Champions Golf Club, we know this is the right decision for the community and players.”
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