Surprise! We know it’s Tuesday morning and you weren’t expecting to see us, but we have a special newsletter for you: a full preview of next week’s U.S. Women’s Open!
When: June 3-6, 2021
Where: The Olympic Club (Lake Course), San Francisco, California
Last year: After a pandemic-induced six-month delay, the 2020 U.S. Women’s Open was held at Champions Golf Club in December. Daylight restrictions forced the use of both courses at Champions, but everything went smoothly. A wild final day saw many players in the mix before A Lim Kim, making her first career major championship start, grabbed the title with birdies on each of her last three holes. She finished one shot ahead of Jin Young Ko and Amy Olson and two shots ahead of 54-hole leader Hinako Shibuno.
Site of five U.S. Opens and three U.S. Amateurs, Olympic Club has not hosted the U.S. Women’s Open until now. The last major held at Olympic was the 2012 U.S. Open, which Webb Simpson won by a shot over Graeme McDowell and Michael Thompson. The women will play the Lake Course as a par 71 between 6,400 and 6,500 yards.
Originally designed by Willie Watson in the early 1920s, the Lake Course at Olympic Club now bears a lot of influence from Robert Trent Jones Sr. The 18 holes cling to the side of a steep hill, not far from the Pacific Ocean. The overarching themes are small, elevated greens and narrow fairways that play laterally across the slope, forcing players to deal with uneven lies over and over.
In addition to being narrow and tilted, many of the Lake Course’s fairways feature reverse camber, meaning the cant of the fairway runs in the opposite direction of the dogleg. This element is key to Nos. 2, 4, 9, 16, and 17, where reverse camber makes hitting the fairway essential. Many of the LPGA Tour’s top players are extremely accurate drivers, and they will certainly need that skill next week.
Adding to the challenge is the heavy ocean air, which may leave players wondering whether they have lost clubhead speed. Those who prepare thoroughly and get their distances dialed in prior to the tournament will have a distinct advantage.
U.S. Open Victory Club
This year’s U.S. Women’s open will have a historic venue and a fascinating mixture of young talents and proven stars. It should be an exciting tournament. To get the most out of the experience, join the U.S. Open Victory Club for free, and enjoy virtual fan experiences, access to limited-edition merchandise, and content not found anywhere else!
A few holes to watch
No. 1 – Par 5 – 528 yards – The Lake Course hits you right out of the gate with one of its best holes, a fun par 5 that traverses the highest section of the property. When players arrive at the top of the ridge in the fairway, they will be treated to a reveal of downtown San Francisco as well as the Golden Gate Bridge in the distance. The longest hitters may go at this green in two, but any shot that ends up left will flirt with a boundary line.
No. 4 – Par 4 – 397 yards – One of the more memorable par 4s on the course, the 4th hole requires a draw off the tee to hold the fairway, which turns left but slopes hard to the right. From there, a mid- to short-iron approach has to climb back up the hill to the green.
No. 7 – Par 4 – 263 yards – The shortest par 4 on the Lake Course, No. 7 plays longer than its scorecard yardage. It treks uphill toward the iconic clubhouse and finishes at a two-tiered green that is not kind to those who find the wrong tier. Don’t be surprised if the 7th is set up closer to 250 yards on at least one day to make it potentially drivable.
No. 15 – Par 3 – 137 yards – The final one-shotter on the course, the 15th is largely blind from the tee because of some typically severe Olympic Club bunker faces. Pins tucked up front or in the back corners will require extremely precise short irons.
No. 17 – Par 5 – 485 yards – The second of back-to-back par 5s late in the round, the 17th might be the longest 485-yard hole we’ve ever played. First you need to hold a fairway that tilts cruelly to the right, then you have to tackle the rise to the green. Add a prevailing wind that batters into you and off the left, and No. 17 is a brute.
The women’s game has a lot of talent at the top right now. Here are a few players to watch out for at Olympic Club:
Jin Young Ko – Every “notables” list on the LPGA Tour has to start with Jin Young Ko. No. 1 in the Rolex Rankings, Ko has four straight top-seven finishes in major championships and hasn’t placed worse than T-16 since 2018. She already has four top 10s in 2021 and seems primed to win her third career major. At a course that tests every golfing skill, Jin Young Ko stands out because of her well-rounded game. We’d be surprised if she isn’t in the mix on the weekend.
Inbee Park – Currently sixth in driving accuracy on the LPGA Tour, world No. 2 Inbee Park hits nearly 85% of her fairways. She’s not long, but her accuracy (not to mention her elite putting) tends to make up for that. As Webb Simpson showed in 2012, the Lake Course looks kindly on those who are frequently in the fairway.
Lydia Ko – The talk of the LPGA Tour early in 2021, Lydia Ko has been on a hot streak. She has six top-15 finishes and a win at the Lotte Championship, and she shot 62 in the final round of the ANA Inspiration to finish runner-up. The U.S. Women’s Open hasn’t seemed to suit her in the past, but that could change at Olympic Club.
The bombers – After watching Bryson DeChambeau overpower Winged Foot last fall, we’re curious to see if the bombers of the women’s game can bully Olympic Club in a similar fashion. Defending champion A Lim Kim, ANA Inspiration champion Patty Tavatanakit, Brooke Henderson, Lexi Thompson, and the Korda sisters are all in the top 10 in driving distance on the LPGA Tour. Will the long ball work as well in San Francisco as it did in Mamaroneck?
An important component of all USGA championships, qualifying returned in 2021 after being canceled because of the pandemic in 2020. Here are a few notables who got through this year:
Rachel Heck – Get ready to see Rachel Heck’s name a lot. Over the past six weeks, the Stanford freshman (!) won her last three regular season events, the NCAA Stanford regional, and the individual portion of the NCAA Championship. Oh, and she was the medalist in her qualifier for the U.S. Women’s Open. She is on the heater of all heaters.
Haley Moore – After falling short in every qualifier she’s attempted since 2014, Haley Moore birdied four of her final five holes at Brentwood Country Club to earn a U.S. Women’s Open debut. The former Arizona All-American continues to grind on the LPGA Tour but hasn’t had much luck in 2021. This could be a big week for her.
Chloe Kovelesky – At 14 years old, Kovelesky got through the West Palm Beach qualifier with rounds of 70-70 and will be the youngest player in the field at the Olympic Club. She absolutely POUNDS the ball.
Ana Pelaez – A senior at the University of South Carolina, Pelaez birdied five of her final six holes at the Atlanta qualifier to take medalist honors by five shots. She had the best season of her collegiate career in 2020-21, recording a scoring average of 70.5 and notching three top fives for USC.
Gina Kim – A top-40 amateur and a Duke Blue Devil, Kim got through a four-for-two playoff at Mid Pines to secure her place at Olympic Club. Kim was selected to the All-ACC team this spring and will play in her second Arnold Palmer Cup the week after the U.S. Women’s Open.