Top 5 things to watch at the US Women’s Open

PINE NEEDLES, NC – The US Women’s Open at Pine Needles Lodge and Golf Club in Southern Pines is back for a record fourth time with a $10 million purse — more than double last year’s $4.8 million purse — and plenty of storylines.

Between Michelle Wee West’s impending retirement, the return of three-time champion Annika Sorenstam, and the group of young players at the top of the game, here are five things to watch this week:

Michelle Wee West’s Last Dance (Sort of)

As a USGA employee quipped on Monday afternoon, when the Wie West arrives at the tournament, there’s an obvious uproar. On Monday there was no. Wie was supposed to play a practice round but couldn’t make it on time, so on Tuesday, while she was chasing down tackles on practice greens and spinning between different rackets, fans crowded around and watched her prepare for her last tournament of the year.

Wie West announced last week that it will be pulling back from the LPGA Tour after the US Open. Planning to play the 2023 tournament at Pebble Beach. At her press conference Tuesday in Pine Needles, she said the decision was “bittersweet,” but something she’s been thinking about for a while.

“I would say I’ve had no regrets in my career,” Wee West said. “There is always an idea of ​​wishing I could do more. But I feel like no matter what, no one is going to be 100% satisfied. And I definitely have had a fickle career. But I am very proud of the resilience I have shown.”

The former US Open champion, who won that tournament again in 2015 when it was held in nearby Pinehurst, said she was managing expectations in part because she wasn’t practicing the training routine she would normally perform at the US Open, but “clearly the competition side wants to win.” “. As you may have noticed, if you don’t win the 2014 US Open, you won’t hold back and will still be chasing that title.

how it’s going to be Nelly Korda The fare in her first championship again?

To hear Korda tell the story, she didn’t want the US Open to be her return to competitive golf after undergoing surgery for a blood clot in the subclavian vein in her left arm. But she was there on Tuesday, wearing a zip-up sleeve on her left arm and talking about how she’d probably wear a zip-up sleeve on her right to avoid getting a bad tan.

“Once I was 100 percent, I was going to focus on the event I wanted to go back to,” Korda said. After this week, she defended her victories at the Meijer LPGA Classic and KPMG Women’s PGA Championship. Despite his absence for the past few months, Korda remains the world’s second largest player.

“I don’t expect much,” she said. “The girls are already in the middle of their season, and they have many rounds under their belts.”

Korda detailed her rehabilitation, which took place in California and involved a number of shoulder and back exercises. It was eventually allowed to swing around 60 percent of the amplitude before it was allowed to take full swings. Korda said the time away from the competition was tough, and it made it difficult to watch a lot of golf. I only got the last round in the Chevron Championship.

“I missed that a lot,” Korda said. “As I get closer to this week, I’m starting to hit it a little bit longer. I think the juices are starting to flow a little more, but I’m very happy to be here against everyone.”

Annika Sorenstam is back in the game

Nobody knows Pine Needles like Sorenstam knows Pine Needles. She is the only player to have played this course as a US Open three different times, including in 1996, when she won the entire tournament. The 51-year-old retired in 2008 but returned to the adult tour once she turned 50. Her 8-shot win at the US Open last August earned her a spot in Maidan this week. Since then, she has been trying to balance her family life and off-track pursuits with training for this tournament.

“She’s been training a lot in the last year, and I was like, ‘Guys, be careful, the goats are coming in,'” said world number three Lydia Ko, who sports at the same facility in Orlando, Florida.

As Sorenstam noted, there are alumni of Sorenstam Private Academy in the field this week. One of those is 24-year-old Megan Khan, who played alongside Sorenstam in Tuesday’s training round.

“I was shot by a bullet [on the 15th hole] “I felt fine, but I felt like my body was starting to stiffen,” Sorenstam said. I just said [husband and caddie Mike McGee]”I’m stiff and she’s falling.”

Sorenstam said getting close to the green and working around it will be the keys this weekend. And while she admitted that she can’t go into hard pin spots the same way she did earlier in her career, she said her slicing game is probably as good as it ever was.

“I know I’m playing well here, I’ve been able to make the most of my game,” she said. “I’m where I can be and we’ll see where that takes me.”

After losing a five-stroke lead in the final round of last year’s US Open, Thompson came to Payne Needles with added motivation and perspective. The 27-year-old said Tuesday that she has taken time over the past year to focus on her positivity, including viewing last year’s loss as a learning experience rather than a failure.

“I’m enjoying life more, and I realize that golf is not life or death,” said the sixth-ranked player in the world, who has been playing professionally since she was 15. training facilities. It’s more useful just to make your mind relax and your body to rest a little.”

Thompson, who has not won an LPGA Tour since 2019, said she no longer works with a mental trainer. She credited her coach, Martin Hall, for helping her weather last year’s ups and downs and keeping her positive. He also helped her through some swing changes.

On her approach this week, Thompson said the course, especially the Greens, calls for being conservative and dealing with long shots rather than having the ball come off the green after chasing a pin.

Rose Zhang leads the amateur field

After her team and individual victories in the NCAA tournaments, a rising golf star has to spend her week at the US Open to finish articles and projects for her first year at Stanford University. Zhang’s past few months had been a whirlwind, but she continued to win. Just last week, when she turned 19, she took home the Annika Award, awarded to the best college golfer in the United States.

“It was crazy,” Zhang said after Monday’s range-finding session. “I had to get out of my dorm… I’m still in class, but [the school year] It basically finished and I’m at another event, so I feel like it was frantic.”

Zhang has also been busy off course, signing name, image and likeness deals with Callaway, and most recently this week with Adidas. She is the first student-athlete at the company NIL.

“It’s just another step into the real world where you can kind of get used to having agents, and make contracts,” Zhang said. “It shows me a little bit of the real world.”

The US Women’s Open presents Zhang with the toughest challenge she has faced so far. Players of all ages and levels noted tough greens that have a lot of runoff, and Zhang emphasized the importance of her short game as well.

Zhang’s group is great because it includes other teens. She will play alongside 19-year-old Lucy Lee, who played this tournament at the age of 11, as well as 16-year-old Anna Davis, who won the Augusta Amateur National Championship. There are a total of 30 hobbyists in this field.