Round 1: Five Things to Watch For July 12, 2017 | BEDMINSTER, N.J. By Michael Trostel, USGA

Can Brittany Lang improve on the performance of recent defending champions? We'll find out as the first round begins. (USGA/Darren Carroll)

U.S. Women's Open Home

Competitors have used many words to describe the U.S. Women’s Open: Challenging. Strategic. Exhilarating. Stressful. And perhaps this year more than some other years, one found right in the championship’s name: open. There have been 17 different winners in 18 LPGA Tour events this year, and in the last five weeks alone, three players have held the No. 1 spot in the Rolex Rankings.

The grand stage for the 72nd U.S. Women’s Open is the Old Course at Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, N.J., which will play at 6,732 yards and to a par of 72. The Tom Fazio design opened in 2004 and concurrently hosted the U.S. Junior Amateur (won by Jordan Spieth) and U.S. Girls’ Junior (won by Amy Anderson) in 2009. Twelve competitors from that year’s Girls’ Junior are in the Women’s Open field, including Lexi Thompson and Danielle Kang.

Can a Women’s Open veteran prove herself once again in golf’s ultimate test or will yet another new winner emerge from the pack?

Here’s what to watch for in the opening round:

Wie-surgence: After totaling 16 missed cuts and just one top-10 finish in 2015 and 2016, Michelle Wie has already posted five top 5s in the first half of this year. The 27-year-old is looking for her first victory since the 2014 Women’s Open on Pinehurst No. 2. “After I won in 2014, I thought I was going to win 15 more events in a row,” said Wie. “Life doesn’t always happen the way you plan. Unfortunately, I’ve faced a lot of injuries since then. The memory of having won the U.S. Open gives me confidence. I’m here to have fun and play some good golf.”

Amateur hour: This week, 21 amateurs are in the Women’s Open field. While at least one amateur has made the cut in all 71 previous playings of the championship, it has been 50 years since Catherine Lacoste became the only amateur to claim the Harton S. Semple Trophy at The Homestead in 1967. This year’s contenders include Eun Jeong Seong, the reigning U.S. Women’s Amateur and U.S. Girls’ Junior champion; Leona Maguire, the top-ranked player in the Women’s World Amateur Golf Ranking; and Hye-Jin Choi, the low amateur in the 2016 Women’s Open at CordeValle.

Defensive stand: No player has defended her Women’s Open title since Karrie Webb in 2001. In fact, no defending champion has even recorded a top-10 since Juli Inkster finished eighth in 2003. Brittany Lang will set out to buck that trend this year, though she has missed two of her last three cuts and does not have a top-10 finish on the LPGA Tour in 2017. “It has been a little bit of a disappointing year,” said Lang, 31. “I’ve been hitting the ball so, so well for the last few months and haven’t really had any great finishes. [But] I always seem to play well at U.S. Opens. I will be nervous and excited on the first tee tomorrow. I’m going in with a lot of confidence because I’ve been in control of my ball striking.”

Sister, sister: For the second consecutive year, two sets of sisters – the Kordas and the Jutanugarns – are in the Women’s Open field. Jessica Korda, 24, is playing in her 10th championship, while Nelly, 18, tees it up for the third time. Both Kordas made the cut in the two previous Opens in which they played together (2013 and 2016), with Jessica finishing tied for seventh at Sebonack Golf Club in 2013. The Jutanugarns – Ariya, 21, and Moriya, 22 – are playing in their fifth and sixth Women’s Opens, respectively. Ariya is No. 2 in the Rolex Rankings and Moriya has recorded nine consecutive top-25 finishes heading into this week.

Beat the heat: Temperatures are expected to reach the mid-90s on Thursday with a Heat Index of over 100 degrees. While hot conditions aren’t new to these competitors, extreme heat combined with elevated humidity could affect the players’ mental sharpness as the day wears on. “It’s going to be a mental grind out there,” said 2007 champion Cristie Kerr. “You’re going to have to manage your energy in between shots.” Last summer, Virginia Elena Carta experienced symptoms of heat exhaustion and dehydration during her championship-match loss to Seong in the U.S. Women’s Amateur, requiring a 10-minute medical break. Drinking plenty of fluids will be essential on Thursday at Trump National.

Michael Trostel is the senior content producer for the USGA. Email him at mtrostel@usga.org.

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