US Women's Open
We look ahead to the third major of the season - the US Women's Open at Blackwolf Run GC
By Matt Cooper. Last Updated: July 4, 2012 9:30am
(L to R) 2010 champion Paula Creamer, world number one Yani Tseng and the in-form Azahara Munoz
Three weeks after Webb Simpson was crowned US Open champion it's the ladies turn to face the USGA test in the US Women's Open at Blackwolf Run GC. Korea's So Yeon Ryu is the defending champion in the third major of the LPGA season.
Here's our guide to the tournament:
Blackwolf Run is in Kohler, Wisconsin and first hosted the event in 1998 when Se Ri Pak was triumphant. The layout is a composite of two Pete Dye courses. It will play 6,954 yards and, even in comparison with other USGA set-ups, it is tough. Pak's winning score 14 years ago was six-over par, the highest winning total in the event's history.
The course will however play as a par-72 rather than the par-71 it was in 1998, but length has been added and last year's runner-up Hee Kyung Seo, who played it in May, said, "It's long and is going to be a challenge." On the other hand, Jim Richerson, general chairman of the event, expects the winner to better Pak's score by five or six strokes.
Last time at Blackwolf Run
The course witnessed history in more ways than one because Pak's victory triggered the rise of Korean ladies (and arguably men's) golf.
It was also a dramatic (and long drawn out) win. She was holding the clubhouse lead when amateur Jenny Chuasiriporn holed a 45-foot birdie putt on the 72nd green to tie her. The 18 hole play-off also failed to split the two and Pak finally claimed the win on the 20th extra hole.
The two play-off contenders have gone in very different directions since. Pak has won five majors to became a legend of the game. Chuasiriporn turned professional, never made the cut at another LPGA event, tried the LET and Futures tours without success and is now a cardiac nurse who no longer plays the game.
A history of surprise winners
In recent years this has not been an event for the favourites. In fact six of the last nine winners haven't won again. The winners tend to be veterans or surprise champions. Even when Paula Creamer won she did so unexpectedly, given that she was in considerable pain from a wrist injury (a problem which she felt paradoxically helped her challenge).
The big issues this week: the world number one
Taiwan's Yani Tseng won four of the eight majors in 2010 and 2011, last year she won 10 times in 25 starts and she began 2012 in the same vein, winning three of her first five starts.
But she hasn't won since then and her last two finishes are T59th and a missed cut. The last time she failed to make the top 50 in consecutive starts was mid-2009.
She's been so good for so such a long time it would be silly to assume she has done anything but hit a flat spot, but this is not an event she has a good record in.
She has eight wins (and another three top three finishes) from 14 starts in the other three majors. Yet her US Open record is: MC-T42-MC-T10-T15. Good enough for some golfers but not for the world number one.
If she has a weakness it is on the greens and the USGA make them hard and fast - that probably explains her problems in the past. To win this week she must confound both form and her event history.
The European challenge
One player alone has continued to ride the wave of excitement that followed the dramatic conclusion to the Solheim Cup - Spain's Azahara Munoz. It was she, inspired by and alongside Suzann Pettersen and Caroline Hedwall, who turned the match on its head in the closing stages.
She was a very fine player before that week in Ireland but since it she has taken a step up in class. Five of her last seven starts have reaped top four finishes, including a maiden LPGA victory in the Sybase Matchplay Championship.
Top ranked European Pettersen has had a poor year by her standards but she did finish second in last month's LPGA Championship.
Don't overlook, either, England's Mel Reid. She won the Prague Masters on her last start, her first since her mother's death in May. It was an understandably emotional occasion. Maintaining that form in the toughest major of them all will be a fearsome task, but a strong showing is not out of the question.
The changing of the American guard?
The top US players are having a poor 2012. Cristie Kerr has just one top five, Morgan Pressel's best LPGA strokeplay finish is T20th, Michelle Wie has broken 70 just once all year and Brittany Lincicome is struggling to match last year's form.
Paula Creamer's best finish in a full event is eighth, but she loves this event and it would be foolish to overlook her. America's brightest hope, however, is Stacy Lewis, now ranked second in the world. She's a double winner this season and only once finished outside the top 25.
Who are the US Open specialists?
As mentioned above, Creamer adores this event: her last eight visits have all earned her top 20 finishes, including the emotional win in 2010. In-Kyung Kim is another who loves the USGA test. Her last four Opens have seen her finish third, third, fourth and 10th. She does, however, have to cope with the memory of missing a one foot putt that cost her the first major of the year (the Kraft Nabisco Championship).
Don't forget Korea's Inbee Park either. She was a surprise winner in 2008 but she can boast three other top 10 finishes in the event. That is slightly odd because following her win she struggled on the LPGA, but she started to win again in Japan in late 2010. With improved confidence she has finally come to terms with America and has three top tens on the bounce coming in to this week.