Women's golf looking for big week at Open
This story has been corrected. Read below
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. -- From a Rocky Mountain High viewing perch, the LPGA might not be able to see forever, but it has no trouble visualizing a productive week for women's golf.
The 66th U.S. Women's Open, the oldest tournament in the women's game, will tee off this week at The Broadmoor, where history has been made before, and such potential is just what the women's game needs.
Fresh off her LPGA Championship title two weeks ago, world No. 1 Yani Tseng, with four majors at age 22, is attracting a level of attention that women's golf has not enjoyed in some time. She will be joined in the 156-player field by defending champ Paula Creamer, top American Cristie Kerr, Norwegian star Suzann Pettersen and every other player ranked among the top 70 in the world.
And because it is the U.S. Open, more eyes will be on the women's game than during any other time of the season.
What is there to see?
Here are our suggestions for good places to start.
Five storylines to watch
1. Dominant player: Everybody loves an underdog -- except in golf. For some reason, golf fans react differently that almost all others in sports. Golf is happiest and prospers most when a single name runs the game -- be it Palmer, Nicklaus, Woods, Lopez or Sorenstam.
Now the LPGA may have the game's newest terminator. Tseng is kicking butt and taking names, giving the LPGA a much-needed around-the-office-water-cooler subject of conversation.
2. It's the U.S. Women's Open: You can argue the order of importance enjoyed by each of the four majors in men's golf. The women do not bother.
The U.S. Women's Open is hands-down the biggest event on their schedule. This year's 1,295 entries were one shy of the record received by the USGA in 2010, and 2011 is the eighth consecutive year the number has surpassed 1,000.
Entries were received from 49 states (all except West Virginia and the District of Columbia). In addition to the USA, entries were received from: American Samoa, Argentina, Australia, Austria, Bahamas, Belgium, Brunei Darussalam, Canada, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Finland, France, Germany, Great Britain (England, Scotland and Wales), Hong Kong, India, Italy, Japan, Republic of Korea, Malaysia, Mexico, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Paraguay, People's Republic of China, Peru, Philippines, Russian Federation, Singapore, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Chinese Taipei, Thailand, United Arab Emirates and Venezuela.
3. The golf course: The Broadmoor Golf Club, hosting its seventh USGA event, is where Sorenstam won her first of 10 major championships, in 1995, the last time American women's golf's national championship was in Colorado Springs.
The resort boasts three 18-hole courses, but the East course is the favorite. Designed by Donald Ross in 1918, it also hosted the 2008 U.S. Senior Open.
It's a classic Ross design, with the extra wrinkle of high elevation creating longer ball carry. The resort sits in the Rocky Mountains, 6,230 feet above sea level. To counteract the thin air, the course will be set up at 7,047 yards and will play to a par of 36-35-71. It is the longest course in U.S. Women's Open history, surpassing Interlachen Country Club (6,789 yards) in 2008.
"The main thing is you have to figure out how far the ball is gong and adjust for that," said Kraft Nabisco winner Stacy Lewis. "It takes some practice, just getting out there and hitting shots and figuring it out."
4. American hopes: Stop us if you have heard this one before on second thought, please don't, because you have.
What's going on with American golf?
Kerr ranks No. 2 in the world behind Taiwan's Tseng. Defending U.S. Open champ Creamer is eighth. No other Americans are in the top 10.
And even with Michelle Wie, Morgan Pressel, Brittany Lincicome and Stacy Lewis holding spots in the top 20, only two other Americans (Angela Stanford and Juli Inkster) are in the top 50.
Eight Americans in the world top 50?
"It's a question we've all been asked several times," Creamer said. "I really can't give you an answer to that. We all are trying. It's not like we don't want to be there."
5. And the Koreans, too: It's not only American golfers who seem as if they could use a Five-Hour Energy drink.
Beginning with Se Ri Pak's rookie of the year season in 1997, South Koreans have been a dominant force on the LPGA. In 1998 Pak won four times, and every year since the country has averaged just under seven LPGA victories a year. South Koreans have 29 victories in the last three seasons alone.
But none this year.
One theory is that the LPGA has quietly lengthened its courses in an effort to neutralize the generally shorter-hitting Korean players.
Five players to watch
1. Yani Tseng: Last week the 22-year-old from Taiwan made the LPGA Championship her fourth major, becoming the youngest professional in golf history to win four. This week she will attempt to collect a career grand slam -- at an age two years younger than 10-time major champ Sorenstam was when she qualified to play full-time on the LPGA.
In 10 LPGA tournaments this year, Tseng has three wins and eight top-10s. She leads the LPGA in scoring average (69.31), greens in regulation and is fifth in driving distance (270 yards).
2. Cristie Kerr: The feisty American could be having one of the greatest seasons of her career. Instead, she continues to look for her first title of 2011.
Ranked No. 2 in the world, Kerr has three seconds and a third (at the LPGA Championship) in her last four outings. For the season, she has three runners-up, a pair of thirds and a fourth in 10 events.
"I've played a lot of good golf," Kerr said. "I've been close to winning again and just need a little bit of luck."
3. Paula Creamer: Creamer's U.S. Women's Open victory last year was her first title after surgery on her left thumb and suggested she had moved past the injury. Apparently, that was not true. She has done very little since the surprise win.
"It's not been the greatest start of the year that I imagined," she said. "But my game is coming together. My thumb is a lot better so I'm able to do things in my swing that I wasn't able to do a while ago."
The improvement is showing. Along with a tie for third in the recent LPGA Championship, Creamer has three top-5 finishes in her last four events.
4. Jiyai Shin: No. 4 in the world rankings, she broke most Korean LPGA records, winning 10 events in 19 starts in 2007. After joining the LPGA a year later, she has five wins, including the Women's British Open.
She held the world No. 1 spot briefly last year. Her steady, accurate game makes her a solid contender on the testy USGA course setup.
5. Suzann Pettersen: After 13 top-10 finishes in 20 events last year, the Norwegian picked up her seventh career win early this year with the Match Play title. She has a history of stepping up in big events. Pettersen won the 2007 LPGA for her only major, but finished tied for third two weeks ago at the LPGA Championship, finished second twice in 2010 majors, and fifth and sixth in 2009.
She expects to be in hunt again.
"I feel really good about the U.S. Open," she said. "I know where to dig for the preparation."
Five who could surprise
1. Betsy King: Truth is, she's unlikely to contend. It does not matter. The LPGA Hall of Famer already is a surprise.
After earning a spot in the field by advancing through qualifying, King, 55, will be the oldest player in the field. King, who won the U.S. Women's Open in 1989 and '90, will be playing in the event for the first time since 2004.
2. Angela Stanford: The 10-year veteran with four career titles just keeps showing up on leader boards. With three top-10s, including a tie for third at the Kraft Nabisco, she's 12th on the money list. She played well in the LPGA Championship until a final-round 74 left her tied for 30th.
3. Michelle Wie: One of these days, she's going to play at the level promised from the time she arrived in golf's spotlight as an early teen.
Now in her ninth year playing LPGA events, she has two wins -- one in 2009 and 2010.
This year, Wie has four top 10s in nine events. She tied for sixth in the Kraft Nabisco and tied for 72nd at the LPGA Championship, closing with back-to-back 75s.
But no American golfer is better known.
4. I.K. Kim: The 23-year-old South Korean has a game that looks almost perfect for a USGA championship.
She is second on the LPGA in scoring average (70.26), second in rounds under par (18 of 27), 11th in greens hit in regulation and eighth in putting.
5. Mariel Galdiano: Just nine days after her 13th birthday, the Hawaiian amateur will be the youngest player in the field -- and the third youngest to play in the Women's Open's 66-year history. (Alexis Thompson and Morgan Pressel were both 12 when they qualified.)
Because she is from Hawaii, it is easy to compare Galdiano to Michelle Wie, who also came out of the state as a junior star. But Galdiano has said she's not interested in the comparison.
As for Wie, when asked by the media this week about the youngster, she had a question.
A July 6 story on ESPNW failed to properly attribute two quotes from golfer Mariel Galdiano. The quotes were originally given exclusively to Examiner.com. The quotes are no longer included in the story.