Contenders and Players to Watch ( Part 1 of 2 )
As the 75th Edition of the U.S. Women’s Open gets underway, there is no shortage of potential contenders for Golf’s last major of 2020. All of the players in our preview will likely come as no surprise, but if you are looking for an informed scoop of potential winners, we think that you will like our picks and perhaps find a few players that might have “flown under the radar”.
Jeongeun Lee6 -- Defending Champion
Rolex Ranking - 12
The 2019 champion captured her first victory as a member of the LPGA at the Country Club of Charleston. Prior to her win last season, her best finish at the USWO came in 2017 as she finished in a tie for 5th position. In 2018, she finished T17, before winning last season. She has a good record at the US Women’s Open and should be a strong contender to repeat this season. Notwithstanding her strong performances in this event, she struggled a little at the Pelican Women’s Championship last month in her first LPGA event since the Covid19 suspension of play.
Last season, she played fairly consistent throughout the year and statistically, she was averaging 264 yards off of the tee box, strong enough off to give her some good looks at the greens and she did not disappoint, finishing the season 8th best overall with a “Greens In Regulation” or GIR of 75.36%. We will see if she can elevate her play at the Volunteers of America Classic in preparation to defend her crown in Houston.
Rolex Ranking - 40
It’s hard to believe at times that Lydia is now in her 7th year on tour, having joined the tour as a rookie in 2014, coming off of her two consecutive Canadian Women’s Open Championships in 2012 & 2013. Regularly in the public eye, Lydia reached the apex of her career in 2015-2016 as the world’s number one ranked player. As the game started to change, undergoing its own distance revolution, Ko decided to retool her game, searching for additional distance off of the tee. This prompted coaching changes and caddie changes as she sought to find the right fit.
While this season was interrupted by the Covid19 suspension of play, Ko’s hard work seems to be reaping some benefits. She is hitting the ball further than she ever has in her career, she has grown stronger and is swinging freely and without getting caught up in multiple swing thoughts. The hard work is showing in her results. She finished second at the first Drive On Championship held at Inverness earlier this summer. She has found herself finishing T4 at the Pelican Women’s Championship and at the ANA Inspiration. She has finished inside the top 20 for both the AIG Women’s Open and the KPMG PGA Women’s Championship. While it has been a little while since Lydia last won, she is definitely experienced enough and strong enough mentally to win in Houston.
Rolex Ranking - 11
As difficult as it is to imagine Lydia Ko being a 7-year veteran of the LPGA, it is equally if not more astounding that at 25 years of age, Lexi Thompson is a seasoned LPGA veteran of 9-years on tour. Lexi’s first US Women’s Open came at the age of 12, with her best result coming in last seasons event, finishing tied for Second spot.
Thompson is becoming something of an enigma in women’s golf. She is clearly one of the most talented players on tour and was one of the original long hitters on the LPGA. She is still extremely formidable in that department, sitting in 5th overall with a total average driving distance of 271.74 yards this season. Her “Greens in Regulation”, GIR, sits at 72.22% placing her at 11th overall on the LPGA and her scoring average of 70.49 strokes is 11th best as well. With all of these tools, Lexi should be a contender for many more years to come. However, having been on tour now for 9-seasons, Thompson only has one major victory to show for it (2014 ANA Inspiration).
She is a perennial contender, but she has been struggling to get it done in terms of either pulling away from the field with a lead or mounting a charge to come from behind to win. She appears to be in this phase ever since her loss at the 2017 ANA Inspiration when she finished second in a playoff to So Yeon Ryu, when she had the outright lead but was assessed a four-stroke penalty for incorrectly replacing her ball and for signing an incorrect scorecard. Nonetheless, Lexi has played well in the last two editions of the US Women’s Open, with a T5 finish in 2018 and last seasons T2 finish.
Her 2020 season has been marked with some inconsistency, in all likelihood, a product of the inconsistent season that 2020 has been. She missed the cut at the AIG Women’s Open in Scotland, she placed 4th at the ANA Inspiration, and she finished in a tie for 30th at the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship. She is skipping the VOA event in order to prepare for the US Women’s Open. With driving always at a premium at the US Women’s Open, coupled with her recent history of top-10 finishes, Lexi could find herself challenging and contending on Sunday.
Check out our Podcast with Sophie Walker (SkySport golf analyst) and Beth Ann Nichols (Golfweek) as we Preview the 75th US Women's Open : [ Click Here ]
Sei Young Kim
Rolex Ranking - 2
Sei Young Kim must be considered the favourite to win the last major in golf simply based on her recent, dominating form. Even though it would represent 3-consecutive victories for her, she is the type of player that can play exceptional golf in “streaks”. Her 2020 season, while short, has been exception. She leads the tour in “Greens in Regulation” – GIR, at 78.40% and with 1.73 putts per GIR, she also leads the tour. Given her recent winning streak, it is not surprising that she also leads the tour with a Scoring Average of 68.11 per round.
With all of this, picking Sei Young Kim to win the 75th US Women’s Open would not be a longshot by any means.
Rolex Ranking - 26
As the 2019 ANWA (Augusta National Women’s Amateur) champion and 2018 NCAA Division 1 champion, Jennifer Kupcho is looking to recreate some of that success in the professional ranks. Her best finishes in a major include a T2 finish at the 2019 Evian Championship and a T7 finish at this year’s KPMG Women’s PGA Championship. Kupcho is part of the new generation of players that can drive the ball further. She currently sits 10th overall on tour with a Driving Average of 267.71 yards and with a strong iron game, she sits 16th overall with a 70.79% GIR – Greens in Regulation.
Earlier this season, prior to the Shoprite Classic, Kupcho changed out her irons with the set that she enjoyed in her successful college golf career. She credited that switch in helping her get more comfortable over the ball but also with an increase in her confidence. The native of Littleton, Colorado has her sights set on being competitive at the professional level and she could be a contender at the Champions Club in Houston. She is playing the VOA Classic as a warmup event prior to the US Women’s Open the following week. This should give her an opportunity to fine tune her game before heading south to Houston. Whether she contends on Sunday though will largely depend on how well she strikes her irons and her ability to putt consistently day in and day out. If you’re looking for a player that is flying under the radar, Kupcho could be a good pick again.
Tomorrow: Part 2 of our Preview of Contenders and Players to Watch