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U.S. Women’s Open Preview

Minjee Lee of Australia hits her drive on the second hole during the third round of the Meijer LPGA Classic golf tournament at Blythefield Country Club, Saturday, July 25, 2015 in Belmont, Mich. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)

The host course for the 2016 U.S. Women’s Open, CordeValle Golf Club, takes its name from the Spanish phrase, ‘el corazon del valle,’ meaning, “The Heart of the Valley.” Located near the eastern edge of the Santa Cruz Mountains, the Robert Trent Jones Jr. design was the venue for the Frys.com Open from 2010-2013. The PGA Tour event saw Rocco Mediate, Bryce Molder, Jonas Blixt and Jimmy Walker triumph in the four years that the Tour visited CordeValle.

The U.S. Women’s Open has only been played in California twice before. It hasn’t visited The Golden State since 1982. To put that in perspective, the oldest winner on the LPGA Tour this year is Anna Nordqvist. She was only born in 1987 and is still almost five years older than any other Tour winner in 2016.

The course will play to a Par of 72 and is stretched to 6,752 yards. The sloping fairways will leave players with lots of sidehill lies and the rough just off the fairway should not cause too much trouble. Players need to know where to miss at CordeValle though as the bunkers and longer grass will be extremely penal. As it’s a U.S. Open course, the USGA are sure to make the course tough and Stacy Lewis has said, “It’s a test of every aspect of your game.”

All of the last eight U.S. Women’s Open champions have been between 19 and 24. There hasn’t been a winner from outside of Korea or America since Annika Sörenstam won her final major in 2006. Since Sörenstam’s win, eight of the nine winners have won their first major at the U.S. Women’s Open. On top of that, Inbee Park (2008), So-yeon Ryu (2011) and In-gee Chun (2015) were all winning their first LPGA Tour event.

When Rory McIlroy, Jordan Spieth and Jason Day all arrived at The Memorial Tournament off the back of a win, it was incredibly disappointing when none of them really featured on Sunday. We’re now in a similar situation on the LPGA Tour. Lydia Ko and Brooke Henderson both arrive at CordeValle having won in their last start. They recently went toe-to-toe in a playoff at the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship and Henderson triumphed.

There are a host of other excellent players that also have great claim to the trophy. Lexi Thompson, Ariya Jutanugarn, Sei-young Kim, Haru Nomura, Sung-hyun Park and at least ten or fifteen others would make great champions. The tough task it to find the value amongst the horde of outstanding talent.

Of the first group in the betting (5/1 to 33/1), Sung-hyun Park is the one that interests me the most. I won’t be backing any of the players at that price but the KLPGA star has been nothing short of phenomenal this year. She hasn’t finished outside the Top 20 since October, winning four times in that stretch. In three starts in America, her worst finish is T13. That said, I’m happy enough to leave her out at the price on offer.

Without any LPGA course form, you have to at least take a look at the results from the Frys.com Open. When I think about Bryce Molder, Jonas Blixt and Jimmy Walker, only one club comes to mind. All three putt incredibly well when on song. With that in mind, Minjee Lee is my first bet at 40/1.

The 20-year-old Australian has won twice on the LPGA Tour in less than 50 starts as a professional. Lee is one of the best putters currently plying her trade in America and hasn’t finished outside the Top 25 in her last six starts. Despite her youth, she has managed at least one Top 25 in every one of the five women’s majors. It wouldn’t be a shock to see her picking up her first major win in California this week.

Mo Martin has expressed excitement at the prospect of the U.S. Women’s Open returning to her home state and with her current form, she has to be included at 100/1. Martin has achieved her best ever finish in both of the year’s first two majors and it looks incredibly likely that she’ll do it again in the third major of the year.

The wind could play a part this week and with her only LPGA win coming at the Women’s British Open in 2014, that’s yet another positive. Martin is maybe the most accurate driver of the ball in the game of golf. She is not long off the tee but having hit an astounding 87.25% of fairways in 2016, I don’t think she cares.

In three starts in California this year, Mi Jung Hur hasn’t been outside of the Top 15. Another one of the LPGA’s best putters, M.J. Hur shot 67-68 over the weekend in her last start, in what was a return to form. The 26-year-old has won twice on Tour, including once on the west coast. If she can keep the ball in play at CordeValle then I think she has a very decent chance of contending. The 150/1 on offer seems very fair.

My final pick is another California native that attended UCLA. Alison Lee finished T26 in the U.S. Women’s Open at the age of fourteen. She matched that result last year and with the Championship in her home state for the first time in her lifetime, there’s every chance she can go close.

At 300/1, Lee is another player that has to be considered a threat at a big price. She is an excellent putter that can contend with a solid tee-to-green performance. Lee has played well in California before and it seems like she’s well worth chancing at huge odds.

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