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Saturday, July 9, 2016

Surprises at the US Women's Open

This is Sung Hyun Park's very first US Women's Open -- her first USGA tournament of any kind, for that matter, and only her fifth LPGA start. But here she sits, on top of the leaderboard at the halfway point at -8. I doubt that anyone picked her at the start of the week

But then, it's been a week of surprises so far.

Sung Hyun Park

The cut came at +4, higher than expected because the course turned really nasty on Friday afternoon. Firm conditions and a different wind direction caught players off-guard -- including three of my "5 to Watch" picks. At least Brooke Henderson, Lexi Thompson and So Yeon Ryu made the cut, but at +3 they're unlikely to be in contention come Sunday.

My other two picks, Amy Yang (-6, T2) and Lydia Ko (-5, T4), made their way to the top as expected. Haru Nomura (also T4) isn't a surprise either. But the rest of the Top10 -- which actually includes 14 players -- is not what most of us expected.

For obvious reasons, I looked for the American players. Danielle Kang and Jessica Korda are at -4 (T6), while Mo Martin, Angela Stanford and Sydnee Michaels are at -3 (T10). Only 'Mighty Mo' has a major, but it's a Women's British Open; given the firm and windy conditions, her accuracy helps her overcome her lack of distance.

In fact, while I don't want to rule anybody out this early, there are four players near the top who are proven in these kinds of conditions -- Yang, Ko, Nomura and Martin. If these conditions continue, they may become the new favorites. (Yes, I know Lydia is always a favorite!)

Can Sung Hyun Park hang on? Will experience win out? Or will we see yet another surprise winner this week? At this point, it's anybody's guess.

Remember that today the Open TV coverage moves from FOXSPORTS1 to the regular FOX Network from 3pm-7pm ET. LPGA.com also says that USGA.org will broadcast during the same hours.

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