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The five most important things to watch at the U.S. Women’s Open

The five most important things to watch at the U.S. Women's Open

PINE NEEDLES, North Carolina — The U.S. Women’s Open is once more on the Pine Needles Lodge and Golf Membership in Southern Pines for a report fourth time with a purse of $10 million — higher than double last yr’s purse of $4.8 million — and a great deal of storylines.

Between Michelle Wie West’s impending retirement, the return of three-time champion Annika Sorenstam, and the crop of youthful players on the prime of the game, listed below are 5 points to manage this week:

Michelle Wie West’s last dance (type of)

As one USGA staffer quipped on Monday afternoon, when Wie West arrives at a match, there’s a palpable buzz. On Monday it wasn’t there. Wie was alleged to play a observe spherical nevertheless couldn’t make it on time, so on Tuesday, as she stalked putts on the observe inexperienced and cycled by fully completely different putters, followers crowded spherical and watched as she prepared for her last match of the yr.

Wie West launched last week that she might be stepping once more from the LPGA Tour after this U.S. Open. She plans to play the 2023 match at Pebble Seaside. In her Tuesday data conference at Pine Needles, she said the selection was “bittersweet,” nevertheless one factor she had been keen about for a while.

“I would say I’ve zero regrets in my occupation,” Wie West said. “There’s on a regular basis that inkling of wishing I had achieved additional. Nonetheless I actually really feel prefer it does not matter what, no one’s ever going to be 100% pleased. And I’ve undoubtedly had an up-and-down occupation. Nonetheless I’m terribly happy with the resiliency I’ve confirmed.”

The earlier U.S. Open champion, who gained this match once more in 2015 when it was held at shut by Pinehurst, said she’s managing expectations partly on account of she hasn’t had the observe routine she normally has fundamental proper right into a U.S. Open, nevertheless “clearly the aggressive side must win.” As she well-known, if she hadn’t gained the 2014 U.S. Open, she would not be stepping away and would nonetheless be chasing that title.

How will Nelly Korda fare in her first match once more?

To take heed to Korda inform the story, she didn’t must have the U.S. Open be her return to aggressive golf after current course of surgical process for a blood clot throughout the subclavian vein in her left arm. Nonetheless there she was Tuesday, carrying a compression sleeve on that left arm and talking about how she’s in all probability going to placed on a sleeve on her correct to steer clear of getting a nasty tan.

“As quickly as I was 100%, I was going to set eyes on what event I needed to come back again once more at,” Korda said. After this week, she’s defending victories on the Meijer LPGA Fundamental and the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship. No matter missing the last few months, Korda stays to be the second-ranked participant on the earth.

“I’m not anticipating an extreme quantity of,” she said. “Women are already within the midst of their season, they’ve a complete lot of rounds beneath their belts.”

Korda detailed her rehab, which handed off in California and anxious quite a lot of shoulder and once more exercise routines. She was in the end allowed to swing at about 60 p.c functionality sooner than getting cleared to take full swings. The time away from opponents was troublesome, Korda said, and it made it onerous to have a look at so much golf. She caught solely the ultimate spherical on the Chevron Championship.

“I merely missed it so much,” Korda said. “As I acquired nearer to this week, I started hitting it a bit bit longer. I consider the juices started flowing a bit bit bit additional, nevertheless I’m so joyful to be out proper right here in opposition to everyone.”

Annika Sorenstam is once more throughout the recreation

Nobody is conscious of Pine Needles like Sorenstam is conscious of Pine Needles. She’s the one participant who has carried out this course as a U.S. Open venue three fully completely different cases, along with in 1996, when she gained all the factor. The 51-year-old retired in 2008 nevertheless made a comeback on the senior tour as quickly as she turned 50. Her 8-shot victory on the Senior U.S. Open last August earned her a spot on this week’s self-discipline. Since then, she has been trying to stability her family life and off-course endeavors with practising for this match.

“She was practising so much last yr, I was like, ‘Uh-oh guys, be careful, the GOAT is creating,'” said world No. 3 Lydia Ko, who practices on the an identical facility in Orlando, Florida.

As Sorenstam well-known, there’s graduates from Sorenstam’s private academy throughout the self-discipline this week. A sort of is 24-year-old Megan Khang, who carried out alongside Sorenstam in Tuesday’s observe spherical.

“I hit a shot [on the 15th hole] and it felt good, nevertheless I felt my physique starting to stiffen up,” Sorenstam said. “Then Megan hit a shot, she ripped it and she or he goes, ‘Lastly, I get unfastened.’ I merely instructed [husband and caddie Mike McGee], ‘I’m stiffening up and she or he’s getting unfastened.'”

Sorenstam said that approaching the inexperienced and dealing spherical will in all probability be the keys this weekend. And whereas she acknowledged she’s going to’t go for sturdy pin areas the an identical method she did earlier in her occupation, she did say her chipping recreation could be just about nearly as good as a result of it has ever been.

“I do know to play successfully proper right here I acquired to max out my recreation,” she said. “I’m the place I could also be and we’ll see the place that takes me.”

After dropping a 5-stroke lead throughout the remaining spherical of ultimate yr’s U.S. Open, Thompson comes into Pine Needles with additional motivation and perspective. The 27-year-old said Tuesday she’s taken the time over the past yr to focus on her positivity, along with viewing last yr’s loss as a finding out experience, not a failure.

“I’m merely having enjoyable with life additional, realizing that golf isn’t life or demise,” said the sixth-ranked participant on the earth, who has been having fun with professionally since she was 15. “I consider that’s additional important than usually grinding on observe facilities. It’s additional helpful merely to get your ideas to sit back out and your physique a bit bit break day.”

Thompson, who hasn’t gained on the LPGA tour since 2019, said she is not working with a psychological coach. She did credit score rating her instructor, Martin Hall, for serving to her get by the ups and downs of the earlier yr and holding her constructive. He moreover helped her by some swing changes.

As far as her technique for this week, Thompson said the course, and notably the greens, identify for being conservative and taking prolonged putts instead of getting the ball run off the inexperienced after chasing a pin.

Rose Zhang leads the novice self-discipline

Following her group and explicit particular person victories on the NCAA championships, golf’s rising star is having to spend her week on the U.S. Open ending up essays and duties for her freshman yr at Stanford. Zhang’s previous couple of months have been a whirlwind, nevertheless she retains worthwhile. Merely last week, as she turned 19, she obtained the Annika Award, given to the very best female U.S. collegiate golfer.

“It has been crazy,” Zhang said after a spread session Monday. “I wanted to switch out of my dorm. … I’m nonetheless at college, nevertheless [the school year] is especially over and I’m at one different event, so I actually really feel choose it has been hectic.”

Zhang has moreover been busy off the course, signing establish, image and likeness affords with Callaway, and most not too way back this week with Adidas. She is the company’s first NIL student-athlete.

“It’s merely one different step to the true world the place you’re ready to kind of get used to having brokers, having contracts,” Zhang said. “It displays me a bit bit little little bit of the true world.”

The U.S. Women’s Open presents Zhang collectively together with her hardest downside however. Avid gamers of all ages and ranges have recognized the sturdy greens which have a complete lot of runoff, and Zhang emphasised the importance of her fast recreation as successfully.

Zhang’s group is a fascinating one given it incorporates two completely different children. She is going to seemingly be having fun with alongside Lucy Li, who can be 19 and as quickly as carried out this match at 11, along with 16-year-old Anna Davis, who gained the Augusta Nationwide Women’s Beginner Championship. There are an entire of 30 amateurs throughout the self-discipline.