Amateur Megha Ganne Is Co-Leader with England’s Mel Reid; Major Champion Brooke Henderson sits 1 – stroke behind
Brooke Henderson finished her opening round at San Francisco’s Olympic Club with a 68 (-3 under) for a share of third-place at the 76th U.S. Women’s Open. Yuka Saso, playing in her third consecutive major in the United States, opened with a 69 (-2 under). Melissa Reid, played nearly flawless golf to be the clubhouse leader at -4 under with a score of 67. However, the big news of the day was amateur player Megha Ganne finishing as the co-leader, having posted a 67 (-4 under), becoming the first amateur player to lead or co-lead at the U.S. Women’s Open (USWO), since 2006.
Had she been able to par the last hole instead of recording a bogey, she would have set a new record for the lowest score by an amateur of 66. Ganne is just the 6th amateur player in USWO history to post a score of 67. She finished her round with 6-birdies and 2-bogeys, with her most success coming on the par-threes, having played them in -2 under for the day.
“I didn’t have to try to keep it (her tee shots) in the fairway on the par-3s, which made them a little bit easier. I had a flat lie on the tee boxes, which you don’t have anywhere else on this golf course. Definitely, I think the par-3s are a little bit easier compared to the rest of the course.”
The veteran came into this week as the top ranked English player at number 33 in the world, having displaced Charley Hull from her perch atop English women’s golf. A long time Ladies European Tour (LET) player before coming across the Atlantic to join the LPGA, Reid becomes the first English player to lead the USWO since compatriot Karen Stupples managed the feat in 2005. She combined 5-birdies with a single bogey, finishing with a score of 67 ( -4 under). For Reid, this marks the 6th time that she has opened a major championship with a sub-70 score, with the 2020 ANA Championship being the most recent prior to today.
Statistically speaking, Reid’s round was not spectacular, and nothing in her play really set her apart from any of the other top contenders – with only one exception. Of the 10 players at the top of the leaderboard, she is the only player to have carded a single bogey. She partly attributes it to her game plan and her preparation. It’s also a demonstration of Reid’s tenacity and ability to grind out good results
"I had a pretty good game plan. It's probably the best I've had for a tournament. We had a game plan and stuck to it. If you're in trouble, just get it out, make bogey. I think the key here is to not take many risks the first two, three days, and I didn't do that. We hit it pretty good. Even if I'm in the rough and I have a decent-ish lie, I can kind of hack it out. Very, very happy with the way we started. Felt like I played very, very solid.”
As for her preparation, Reid had an unusual element to it this week. “I texted Brooks on Tuesday. We had a long conversation and then we FaceTimed for an hour on Tuesday night. He gave me a few things that he follows by in a major, so obviously appreciate his help. . . . what he told me was, I thought, invaluable honestly, and it made me have a little bit different approach. That's why I feel like I prepared the best, and with Desi my caddie we both agreed with the same game plan.”
Despite 10 victories, including a major championship, Henderson has never started a U.S. Women’s Open with a sub-70 score before today’s round of 68. Statistically, Henderson’s round was impressive, posting 6-birdies, tied for the most with the overnight co-leader, Megha Ganne. She was second overall in the field with driving, averaging 292 yards off the tee while she was also tied for third in hitting “Greens in Regulation”, hitting 14 of 18 greens. For Henderson, getting off to a good start in a tournament is usually a good omen. Whether it carries over into this event, only time will tell.
Earlier this week, she spoke about the importance of making plenty of pars this week as birdies would be a precious commodity given the traditional course set up at US Women’s Opens. Scores at the end of today’s first round put the sword to that idea, as 15 players carded rounds under par; Henderson shared her thoughts afterwards as to why she thinks that occurred.
“They moved up a lot of tees, which was really nice. Gave some more birdie looks than everybody was expecting. I feel like Brit and I, we capitalized on those quite a bit. Made a lot of birdies, which was fun. The course was still super challenging. So, if you didn't make the fairway, it was hard to make par, so I think the next three days will be challenging and interesting.”
As one of the best ball strikers on tour, Henderson should be able to use those skills to keep her in contention throughout the remaining 3 rounds of golf. But, she also knows that the US Women’s Open does not play easily and is bound to yield less and less birdies as the week progresses.
“I birdied the 1st hole, which was really nice, but I made an incredible bogey on the 2nd hole, so I didn't know how the day was going to go. I just tried to stay smart and stay calm, and I hit a lot of fairways, which I think you have to do here, and a lot of greens.
“As long as you hit the fairway, you're going to have a short iron in. Like I said, just try to take advantage of some of those holes that were moved up, and then once you start playing well and start making some birdies, then you get a little bit more confident.”
Since qualifying for her first U.S. Women’s Open last December in Houston, Texas Yuka Saso has gone on to play in the ANA Inspiration in April and now the U.S. Women’s Open again this week. She has played really solid golf in each of the two previous events, never looking out of place with the top names in women’s golf. She possesses all of the requisite skills to compete and succeed, her ball striking has been proficient, but it is her putter that came through today.
Yuka Saso Press Interview (Round 1 - Thursday)
She averaged 262 yards in driving today, good enough for 15th overall, but her putting was truly her strength today, as she took 26 putts on the day, without any three-putts; it was good enough to finish tied for fourth. Finishing her round with a score of 69 ( -2 under), it marked the third consecutive time that she has opened her major with a score of 69. “This is my third time. And, yeah, obviously the rough are so long, greens were firm, but, yeah, hit a few good putts and good chip. I played Saturday and compared to Saturday, greens got firm, faster. Rough were a little bit longer. Yeah, it played difficult today.”
Round two gets underway on Friday morning at Olympic Club. Mel Reid and Yuka Saso both played the morning round and will tee off in the afternoon; Saso at 1:36 p.m. off the 9th tee and Reid at 1:51 p.m. off the first tee. Henderson and Ganne both play in the morning round with Ganne drawing the earlier tee time of 7:11 a.m. and Henderson at 8:28 a.m.; both players start on the 9th tee.