Our U.S. Women’s Open experts – Chip Alexander, Luke DeCock, Ron Green Jr. and David Scott – weigh in on what to expect this week at Pinehurst.
Chip Alexander’s Top 10
1. Stacy Lewis: The best player in the world this year and it has been a big year for Americans. Why not win the national championship?
2. Inbee Park: Won her last start before Pinehurst with a closing 61. She now hopes to defend her Open title, then reclaim No. 1 spot in world rankings.
3. Lexi Thompson: Has fond memories of the 2007 Women’s Open, playing Pine Needles at age 12. Seven years later she’s among the favorites.
4. Cristie Kerr: The 2007 Women’s Open winner, she has the experience and the toughness to win another one.
5. Lydia Ko: It’s only a matter of time before the 17-year-old Kiwi starts winning majors. This could be the week it starts.
6. Michelle Wie: She’s back. She’s playing well. At 24 and with more maturity, she could be ready for great things.
7. Anna Nordqvist: The Swede has won twice this year, and she’s still running hot with three top-10 finishes in her past three events.
8. Na Yeon Choi: She was a 4-shot winner in the 2012 Women’s Open at Blackwolf Run and can handle the Open pressure.
9. Karrie Webb: A two-time winner this year, the World Golf Hall of Fame member has twice won the Women’s Open.
10. Jessica Korda: Has two victories this year, including the Airbus Classic late last month. Coming of age at 21.
• Most likely to stumble: Webb. The classy Aussie has won seven majors and has the two victories this year. But does she have the nerves and stamina at 39 to stay in contention in the cauldron that is the Women’s Open?
• Most likely to surprise: Yani Tseng. It’s hard to think of a former No. 1 as a “surprise,” but she has had a big slide in the world rankings. But Tseng, the 2005 North & South Women’s Amateur winner at Pinehurst, is playing better of late.
• Most likely to break through: Ko is a big star in the making and has the swing and the skill to win any golf tournament, including a major. Can she do it in the Open, at 17? We’ll see.
• Determining factor: The condition of the greens after the U.S. Open. Despite the “everything-will-be-fine” assurances from the USGA leading up to back-to-back Opens, the wear and tear of an Open always has an effect on the greens and the USGA must maintain them a second week. This coed golf experiment, after all, is unprecedented.
Luke DeCock’s Top 10
1. Inbee Park: She has won three of the past six majors and is ranked No. 2 in the world. The favorite until proven otherwise.
2. Stacy Lewis: Red-hot American just took over the No. 1 ranking from Park. Has won twice in the past month.
3. Karrie Webb: 1999 champion at Pine Needles still playing some of her best golf at 39.
4. Jessica Korda: Daughter of tennis pro Petr one of the tour’s rising stars, only getting better.
5. Lexi Thompson: Set record playing Pine Needles in 2007 as a 12-year-old. Won season’s first major.
6. Lydia Ko: There’s precedent for a New Zealand victory on No. 2, but 17 may be a bit too soon.
7. Michelle Wie: Can never count her out. Period.
8. Na Yeon Choi: Hasn’t won in more than a year, but 2012 Women’s Open champ is capable of putting it together at any time.
9. Suzann Pettersen: Fearsome competitor may be roused to her best if conditions aren’t ideal.
10. Shanshan Feng: Top-20 finishes in each of her past six tournaments, including three top 10s.
• Most likely to stumble: Lizette Salas. World No. 13 ranks 75th on tour in greens in regulation, and missed greens are severely penalized by No. 2.
• Most likely to surprise: Morgan Pressel hasn’t won since 2008, but she had two top 10s in major tournaments last summer.
• Most likely to break through: Korda isn’t one of golf’s biggest names … yet. Already a three-time winner at 21, she’s on the verge of winning her first major.
• Determining factor: Playing right after the men, even in a best-case scenario, is going to lead to bad lies, scuffed-up greens and other unfortunate, unpredictable situations.
It’s just the reality of playing two major tournaments on the same course in consecutive weeks.
Mental toughness, always a factor in the Women’s Open, will be at even more of a premium under these conditions.
Ron Green Jr.’s Top 10
1. Jessica Korda: She’s fast becoming one of the best players in the world.
2. Karrie Webb: One more big win for old times sake.
3. Michelle Wie: This could be the defining moment of her blooming career.
4. Suzann Pettersen: She knows how to tough it out in difficult Open conditions.
5. Lydia Ko: Sure she’s young, but she has so much game.
6. Stacy Lewis: The No. 1 player in the world for a reason.
7. Lexi Thompson: She seems built to win a U.S. Open.
8. Inbee Park: Her putting touch makes her a real threat at Pinehurst No. 2.
9. Shanshan Feng: She already has won an LPGA Championship.
10. Cristie Kerr: Won a Women’s Open down the street at Pine Needles.
• Most likely to stumble: Morgan Pressel. She has just two top-10 finishes this year and she ranks 86th in greens in regulation, which is a big negative at No. 2.
• Most likely to surprise: Lizette Salas. She has a win and two top-three finishes this year.
She has run hot and cold, but when she’s on, she’s dangerous.
• Most likely to break through: Azahara Munoz. She has six top 10s so far, and she’s among the best on tour at hitting greens.
• Determining factor: Just like in the men’s U.S. Open, it will be essential for players to be able to save shots with their short games. Everyone will miss a lot of greens.
It’s a question of who can save par the most often from off the green.
David Scott’s Top 10
1. Stacy Lewis: World No. 1 is comfortable on Donald Ross courses (won at Stockton Seaview Hotel in Galloway, N.J., two weeks ago).
2. Inbee Park: Defending Open champ’s long reign at No. 1 has ended – temporarily or not?
3. Anna Nordqvist: Has to be a favorite with two victories and top fives in recent tournaments in New Jersey and Alabama.
4. Karrie Webb: At 39, she’s still got game, winning twice already this season, including Australian Open.
5. Paula Creamer: One of the sport’s top names won tournament in Singapore earlier this season.
6. Michelle Wie: Her game is on the rebound; a first Open title would fit the narrative.
7. Lydia Ko: Don’t let those nerdy-looking glasses fool you, this rookie can play, with a victory this year and two others in 2013 and ’12 while still an amateur.
8. Lexi Thompson: Still a teen, 19-year-old is one of tour’s long hitters.
9. Jessica Korda: Daughter of former tennis pro Petr Korda already has two victories this season.
10. Shanshan Feng: Knows how to win a major (2013 LPGA Championship).
• Most likely to stumble: Suzann Pettersen had a big year in 2013 (four victories) but hasn’t broken through this season.
• Most likely to surprise: Christina Kim’s second-place finish in Galloway two weeks ago was her best since 2007.
• Most likely to break through: Lizette Salas won for the first time in her career at Kingsmill earlier this season. Her mentor when she was growing up in California was LPGA great Nancy Lopez.
• Determining factor: Many of the players in the field will be playing Pinehurst No. 2 for the first time. Whoever is able to figure out the treacherous greens – which will be playing just as fast as they did for the men – will have the advantage.