A day after Dustin Johnson slipped on the inexperienced jacket at Augusta Nationwide to commemorate his November win on the Masters, the U.S. Ladies’s Open Twitter deal with posted a reminder: There’s extra main golf to be performed on this unusual 2020 season. Accompanied by a video that includes Lexi Thompson, Annika Sorenstam, Michelle Wie West and extra, the tweet highlighted “Ladies Value Watching” on the seventy fifth U.S. Ladies’s Open, which begins Thursday at Champions Golf Membership in Houston.
Simply as this 12 months has been unprecedented, so has the LPGA season. And the ultimate main of the season being played in December is not any exception.
The U.S. Ladies’s Open will showcase 156 of the most effective skilled and beginner gamers on the planet competing for a $5.5 million purse. For the primary time in U.S. Ladies’s Open historical past, the championship will probably be performed on two programs. Because of the main’s transfer to December and the solar setting early within the fall, the U.S. Ladies’s Open will probably be performed on the Jackrabbit Course and the Cypress Creek Course on the Champions Golf Membership. The Jackrabbit will concurrently host Rounds 1 and a couple of earlier than the ultimate two rounds shift completely to Cypress Creek.
Past the structural modifications to this 12 months’s championship, the sector additionally lends itself to unprecedented moments and maybe an unprecedented winner. This 12 months, all three main winners have been first-time main champions. With 41 gamers making their championship debut this week, the ultimate main might hoist a brand new title into the stratosphere.
Returning to golf simply in time for the U.S. Ladies’s Open, the youthful Korda sister mentioned she’s taking issues “step-by-step” after injuring her back throughout the first spherical of the KPMG Ladies’s PGA Championship in early October. After experiencing again spasms, Korda mentioned she began practising just a few weeks in the past however is now “pain-free.” This 12 months marks her sixth U.S. Ladies’s Open, after enjoying in her first championship at 14.
“I am simply actually grateful to be out right here,” the No. 3 Rolex ranked Korda mentioned earlier this week. “I wished to take it gradual till I used to be 100%. This 12 months it is a funky 12 months, so I did not wish to come again too early and type of irritate it once more.”
Korda is not the one one returning to the golf course.
This week, five-time profession winner Danielle Kang returns to aggressive play after ending second within the late October LPGA Drive-On Championship. Regardless of not having performed in over a month, Kang mentioned that the time away would not faze her, and it might even be useful.
This 12 months, Kang got here off a 166-day hiatus from the LPGA schedule because of the COVID-19 pandemic and won the first two tournaments in July and August.
“To gear up, I truly took a while off,” the No. 4 Rolex ranked Kang mentioned firstly of the week. “I felt like my recreation was getting just a little bit titter tatter. Once I performed this golf course, I knew I wanted my distance, I wanted the peak, my pace. I would like that, and that is crucial to me.”
In her 14th U.S. Ladies’s Open look, Thompson can be coming into it with contemporary eyes after taking just a few weeks off. The 11-time profession winner will be a part of forces this week with Bryson DeChambeau’s caddie, Tim Tucker, who might change into the first caddie on the bag for the men’s and women’s U.S. Open champions ought to Thompson prevail.
In her seek for a full-time caddie, Thompson turned to Tucker as a result of she and DeChambeau share the identical agent, who related them.
“He is only a nice power to have on the market,” Thompson mentioned earlier than her Thursday spherical. “Whether or not you are enjoying good or dangerous, I really feel like he is at all times going to be optimistic, and that is what I would like by my facet on the market.”
This 12 months, Thompson has but to discover a win on tour, however she’s hoping that with Tucker’s experience on the greens and with yardage, she will lastly take house the U.S. Ladies’s Open title. (She completed tied for second on the 2019 U.S. Ladies’s Open, two strokes behind Jeongeun Lee6.)
Nonetheless, because the veterans and rookies strategize and put together to tackle the ultimate main this week, the largest hurdle is likely to be the identical hurdle these girls frequently face: recognizing the ladies’s recreation in the identical mild as the boys.
Because the countdown for the following males’s main started virtually instantly after Johnson placed on the inexperienced jacket at Augusta (141 days between Johnson’s final putt and the 2021 Masters first tee), it turned an increasing number of obvious that the final main of the golf season is likely to be forgotten or ignored.
When the U.S. Ladies’s Open Twitter deal with tweeted the day after the Masters with the hashtag “Ladies Value Watching,” it meant it. The decision-to-action sparked others to leap into motion.
PGA Tour participant Max Homa took to Twitter to reiterate what the U.S. Ladies’s Open tweet sought to realize: “Major szn ain’t done yet!“
Only one week in the past, DeChambeau tweeted in regards to the U.S. Ladies’s Open and requested his followers who could be watching with the hashtag “Ladies Value Watching.”
“You want everybody to type of to get behind a motion, so I feel if the PGA Tour gamers received behind this, it will unfold like wildfire,” Korda mentioned.
This week, the USGA, in coordination with SheIS Sport, formally launched “Ladies Value Watching,” a long-term dedication to utilizing its championships and platforms to rejoice girls in sports activities whereas selling equality and variety in sports activities and society.
A few of these spreading the “Ladies Value Watching” call-to-action all through the U.S. Ladies’s Open week will probably be 2014 U.S. Ladies’s Open champion Wie West, three-time U.S. Ladies’s Open champion and Corridor-of-Famer Sorenstam, U.S. Open winner and Corridor-of-Famer Gary Participant, DeChambeau and outstanding athletes like Sue Chook, Aly Raisman, Patrick Mahomes and Russell Wilson.
Regardless of not enjoying this 12 months, after giving start to her daughter Makenna in June, Wie West has been named the Ladies Value Watching ambassador. On this position, Wie West continues to champion the USGA’s efforts and present how she might be simply as impactful off-the-course as on.
“The USGA has at all times been proud supporters of girls’s golf, which makes my U.S. Ladies’s Open victory that rather more particular,” Wie West mentioned in a press launch on Wednesday.
“Ladies Value Watching is the following step of their continued promise to amplify the ladies’s recreation and its champions, and I am honored to be a part of an initiative that can create a greater world for females, together with my daughter, Makenna.”
For Sorenstam, her assist of the Ladies Value Watching marketing campaign means extra than simply posting on social media or sharing her enthusiasm on the digital first tee when the ladies tee off on Thursday.
The U.S. Ladies’s Open shares a particular place in her coronary heart. In 1995, Sorenstam gained her first main on the U.S. Ladies’s Open by one shot after capturing 6-under 278. The next 12 months, she gained the distinguished trophy once more. By this level, it was onerous to say girls’s golf with out mentioning Sorenstam.
“The U.S. Ladies’s Open has at all times meant a lot to me,” Sorenstam advised ESPN through e-mail. “It is our greatest event. With it being my first win, it actually put me on the map, so to talk. Successful in ’96 kind of validated it, however then it broke my coronary heart just a few instances over the following 10 years.”
After these 10 years of heartbreak, Sorenstam battled Pat Hurst in an 18-hole playoff and gained her tenth profession main title on the 2006 U.S. Ladies’s Open. Sorenstam performed for 2 extra years earlier than retiring.
“To lastly win once more, my final main, 10 years later in ’06, only a week after changing into a U.S. citizen, type of introduced it again full circle,” Sorenstam mentioned.
And regardless of the affect that gamers like Sorenstam have had on the sport of golf and girls in sports activities, Sorenstam is aware of that there’s nonetheless a whole lot of progress to be made. With the Ladies Value Watching marketing campaign this week, Sorenstam mentioned that it is a step in the precise path to advertise girls and their accomplishments additional and that the involvement of the boys’s facet of the sport will solely assist in that effort.
“I like seeing the fellows assist the ladies’s recreation,” mentioned Sorenstam, who famously competed towards the boys on the 2003 Colonial. “We’re actually all on this collectively. Tiger [Woods] was at all times very supportive of me throughout my profession and that meant so much. Justin Rose stepped up throughout the pandemic and sponsored some occasions in Europe. It’s nice to see, as excessive tides elevate all boats.”
She added, “I feel girls’s empowerment is gaining momentum, and we have to maintain pushing ahead.”
As the most effective girls’s golfer tee it up at Champions Golf Membership, it is onerous to disregard the larger affect this 12 months’s main could have on golf and girls in sports activities, particularly if this marketing campaign drives extra consciousness. And this isn’t misplaced on the top-ranked LPGA gamers.
“[This campaign] is superior,” Korda mentioned. “The ladies’s sport is trending in the precise path.” Competing for her third win this 12 months and her second main, Kang echoes Korda’s sentiments. Kang mentioned she believes that girls’s golf has been transferring the needle since she’s been on tour, and this U.S. Ladies’s Open is simply one other second to focus on and make change throughout an unprecedented 12 months.
“I feel the ladies’s recreation is getting a whole lot of good recognition,” Kang mentioned earlier this week. “Particularly throughout this pandemic, I do know that lots of people have time at house to look at now, and I do know that the golf recreation itself has risen.”
“I solely see positives and may’t wait to see what’s in retailer for us sooner or later.”