Defending Champion – Cristie Kerr
Interlachen Country Club
Par 73, 6789 yards
Field Score – 100
Scoring Averages – 74.5 (2007 Pine Needles), 75.8 (2006 Newport CC)
2008 Scoring Average to date – 73.0
Wed 5p-6p Preview show on ESPN2
Thur 12p-4p ESPN
Fri 3p-7p ESPN
Sat 3p-6p NBC
Sun 3p-6p NBC
Since I have a tendency to approach my weekly previews from the same angles, I decided to start using a “box preview” style at the top to cover all of the primary points in (hopefully) an easier to read format. Let me know if you like it or prefer that I go back to my oft-repeated prose.
First held in 1946, the U.S. Women’s Open is the longest-running event on the LPGA Tour. 10 former champions – ranging from ’87 champ Laura Davies and ’88 winner Liselotte Neumann to Annika Sorenstam and Cristie Kerr – complete a field which also contains all of my current top 40 rated players. Ji-Yai Shin plays in her first LPGA event since the Kraft Nabisco – only her fourth U.S. event of the year. 27 amateurs also join in, including reigning U.S. Amateur champ Maria Jose Uribe, U.S. Amateur runner-up and NCAA star Amanda Blumenherst, Curtis Cup member Kimberly Kim and Alexis Thompson, who played in this event as a 12-year-old last year. No longer an amateur, Arkansas’ Stacy Lewis plays her first professional event this week and will attempt to earn her ’09 Tour card by earning enough money through sponsor’s exemptions.
Interlachen is the second longest course that the ladies will play this season, about a hundred yards shorter than Bosque Real (MasterCard Classic). Add to that your usual U.S. Open style rough and pin placements as well as being much closer to sea level than Mexico City – well, you’ve got one hellacious test here. Occasional rain is expected during the event which will help the greens to hold and the players get an extra shot each round for par but I’m still betting there won’t be more than half a dozen players under par when it’s over – despite what Mike Davis says.
Being the U.S. Open, the ladies get a little extra media attention this week. As noted above, ESPN will air an hour-long preview show Wednesday afternoon. There will also be webcasts available at uswomensopen.com of Annika Sorenstam’s round on Thursday and the group of Cristie Kerr, Lorena Ochoa and Maria Uribe on Friday. I’m hoping that extra attention doesn’t include drawing Johnny Miller to Interlachen. If that happens, my official over-under on the word “tiger” coming out of his mouth is four minutes after he goes on air. Place your bets in the comments – my DVR recording will be the final judge.
The list of U.S. Open champions has a couple of “WTF” names on it - two of them qualified for my Fluke Victories list – but for the most part, players who win it are in the upper echelon of the sport or at least go on from the victory to become one of the elite. My favorite prognosticating moment of 2007 came when I picked Kerr to win at Pine Needles. This year, I’m going to pick another top-of-the-line player to make the U.S. Open her first major championship – Paula Creamer. Lorena Ochoa and Cristie Kerr are my CYAs.
Stats: Winners 5-16 (8-16 with CYAs), Top Tens 20-48.