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Tuesday, June 17, 2014

My 5 to Watch for the US Women's Open

The boys' playtime is over. Time for the girls to commandeer the playground!

Martin Kaymer and Sandra Gal

Initial reports concerning the condition of Pinehurst #2 are good. Apparently, earlier worries that the course would be riddled with divots after the men's major are unfounded; the USGA's plans for staggering tee boxes appear to have worked. I believe it was Mark Rolfing who said that if there were any problems, they would show up in the "stuff." The relatively pristine natural areas the men saw are now filled with divots, footsteps, hacked up vegetation, etc.

However, given how much more accurately the women generally drive the ball, I don't think that will create any real problems this week.

Choosing my "5 to Watch" has proven to be more difficult than expected. Having seen the problems faced by the men, it's hard to transfer that knowledge over to the women. While much has been written about Kaymer's power and putting, the fact remains that Martin won the tournament on Thursday and Friday when the course was damp. (In fact, just one of those rounds would have been sufficient.) And if the women see some rain this week -- it's a real possibility -- I have trouble believing that one of them will run away from the field like that; things have been too competitive on the LPGA so far this season.

In addition, the friendships that exist between the men and women play a part as well. You may have heard that around 90 of the women were following the men on Sunday, and perhaps 30 of them had "inside the ropes" passes. You can bet that Martin Kaymer and Sandra Gal (pictured above), who grew up playing junior golf together, have discussed the course. Jim Furyk's caddie Fluff is going to be looping for Lydia Ko this week. Michelle Wie has the yardage books of both Keegan Bradley and Rickie Fowler... and according to Scott Rude at GC, Michelle was cracking up over comments Rickie wrote down for her. And Lucy Li is good friends with Erik Compton.

As a result, the scores at the Women's Open will probably look much different from the men's. Trying to factor all those variables into my choices has made this a real challenge, and given how well I did with my picks last week... oh well, here goes!
  • Karrie Webb is probably my favorite this week. Although I'm not so sure the similarities between Pinehurst and any Australian courses will be a big deal (didn't help Adam Scott much, did they?), I think overall experience WILL count for a lot this week. Plus Karrie is driving well, putting well, and just plain scoring well.
  • Michelle Wie has a lot of experience that the younger big hitters lack. Although she doesn't putt as well as some of the ladies, I think her short game, accuracy and consistency could be enough to get it done.
  • Inbee Park is terribly consistent and, although her putting has been slow to come around, she's been putting better over the last couple of weeks. And as the defending champ, I think she has something to prove.
  • Lydia Ko is a bit of a flier pick... and my reason for picking her may surprise you. I like the fact that she isn't a power player. I think she'll be more likely to hit the kind of shots that run up close to the hole, rather than trying to land them close. And she's got Fluff on the bag -- that's a major bonus!
  • And I'm picking Gerina Pillar to step up this week. Yeah, she's a real flier pick but she's a birdie machine and, to be blunt, I think she's due. Breaking through with a major seems to suit her style.
I know... you wonder why I didn't pick Stacy Lewis or Suzann Pettersen. Suzann simply hasn't putted well enough and Stacy gets down on herself a lot; that won't work at Pinehurst. And after much debate I picked Gerina over So Yeon Ryu simply because So Yeon isn't as long and doesn't make as many birdies (though she makes a lot).

So there you have it. Let's see if my picks do a bit better this week than last.

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