There is absolutely nothing the same about this week’s U.S. Women’s Open – but the Canadians in the field are trying to make in memorable just the same.
“It's kind of weird playing golf in December with Christmas lights up and Christmas music, but I'm thankful we're getting to play the U.S. Open. It's nice that we get a chance to do that,” said Alena Sharp on Tuesday of tournament week.
“Yeah… it's been a crazy year.“
Alena Sharpe, LPGA Tour Professional
Sharp and Brooke Henderson are the Canadian contingent this week at the U.S. Women’s Open, being played at Champions Golf Club in Houston, Texas. For the first time in the event’s 75-year history the tournament will be contested over two golf courses in order to maximize December daylight. The United States Golf Association decided to proceed with a full 156-player field this year despite having to move the event from its usual June spot to the middle of December.
This is just the second time the championship has been played in the Lone Star State.
Champions, which has a storied history in golf (it was founded by two Masters champions and has been the host of the U.S. Open, U.S. Amateur, Ryder Cup, and multiple PGA Tour events in its history) has two courses on its property – the Cypress Creek course and the Jackrabbit course.
Golfers this week will play one round on each of Cypress Creek and Jackrabbit on Thursday and Friday before playing just on Cypress Creek for the weekend. While both courses will play long, Cypress has massive green complexes (upwards of 10,000 square feet) while Jackrabbit is tight and boasts much smaller greens.
“I think it's a lot of information, honestly,” said Sharp, who is still searching for her first win on the LPGA Tour. “The one course, the greens are really challenging. The other course the greens are big. So it's really hard to know where they're going to put the flags. We might have some weather on Friday, so we've got it all this week.
“Both courses are pretty long, so a lot of longer irons in, some woods, which is -- I think it's set up for summer golf, not really for winter golf. We'll see if they move the tees up a little bit. But I think par is going to be a good score.”
Sharp believes single-digit under par will be the winning score this week, and said the game plan was to play conservatively – trying to hit the middle of every green and just keep grinding.
Henderson, meanwhile, has been on a very successful grind of late.
After missing the cut at the AIG Women’s Open earlier this summer – it was her first event back after an extended COVID-19 break – she has adjusted nicely. She’s had three straight top-6 finishes on the LPGA Tour including two majors. She lost in a playoff at the ANA Inspiration and finished sixth at the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship.
The 23-year-old is already Canada’s winningest golfer on the PGA or LPGA Tour, having won her ninth tournament in 2019. She has only one major to her credit, but is trending in the right direction right now to end the 2020 season with a bang. After this week is the CME Group Tour Championship (the LPGA Tour’s season finale) which boasts the biggest first-place prize in women’s golf - $1.1 million.
Brooke Henderson, LPGA Tour Professional
This is Henderson’s eighth appearance in the U.S. Women’s Open. Her best result was a T5 in 2015 – her first U.S. Women’s Open as a professional. She finished T10 (and finished as Low Amateur) the year prior. Last year Henderson finished T39.
The key for Henderson will be to get off to a strong start and stay hot with the putter. She’s second on Tour in Greens in Regulation this season, but is 74th in Putting Average.
Henderson is grouped with American Lizette Salas and South Korea’s Hyejin Choi for the first two rounds. Sharp is with Sweden’s Ingrid Lindblad and South Korea’s Ji Yeong Kim2.
“I mean, being able to play the U.S. Open in this unprecedented year, it's a huge bonus to play, no matter what month it is. I think everybody here is really happy that we get to play,” said Sharp. “The challenge of the U.S. Open, no matter what month it is… it's always a challenge. I look forward to it.”
Written and intended to the GlobalGolf.ca audience by Adam Stanley