U.S. WOMEN'S OPEN
3 Things to Know: Round 1 at Charleston May 29, 2019 | Charleston, S.C. By Ron Sirak

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As if the U.S. Women’s Open Championship is not enough of a challenge, the field of 156 who begin play Thursday are also faced with figuring out the devious Country Club of Charleston, as well as coping with unusually warm weather for this time of the year in coastal South Carolina.

The brilliant Seth Raynor design has received rave reviews from players, but some of the clever course characteristics have had competitors scratching their heads to develop a plan of attack. Some of the challenges offered up are indeed unique.

Here are three things to know going into the first round.

Great Groupings

There are a slew of compelling pairings the first two days, but among the highlights are defending champion Ariya Jutanugarn, 2017 winner Sung Hyun Park and Lexi Thompson off No. 10 at 8:06 a.m. They are followed by Nelly Korda, Brooke Henderson and Danielle Kang, with 2015 U.S. Women’s Open winner In Gee Chun, 2011 champ So Yeon Ryu and Amy Yang, who has finished in the top 10 in seven of the last nine Women’s Opens, including second twice and third once, right behind them.  

Also of note: Jennifer Kupcho and Maria Fassi, the last two NCAA individual champions who had a memorable duel in the Augusta National Women’s Amateur, tee off No. 1 at 8:28 a.m. in the first professional event for both with Sierra Brooks, one of the 26 amateurs in the field.

All of that should make for some great watching on FS1 from 2:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. EDT and streaming on usga.org, the U.S. Women’s Open App, and the USGA app on Apple TV and Roku beginning at 10:30 a.m.

The Formidable 11th

Sam Snead once made a 13 on No. 11 at the Country Club of Charleston. And Beth Daniel, who grew up playing the course, said that competitors might want to consider laying up off the tee and playing the par 3 as a two-shot hole. Certainly, the Redan design by architect Seth Raynor has players thinking. Flanked by two massive bunkers well below the green, guarded by a false front and with a miss long leaving a treacherous second shot back toward the false front, the 172-yard hole is likely to provide some of the most intense moments of the championship. It will also be interesting to see what distances the hole will play this week.

Stamina Required

The good news is that it’s supposed to cool off a bit on Thursday. The bad news is the temperature will still top out at 93 degrees. The Country Club of Charleston is expected to play firm and fast, exactly the way championship officials want it. But the weather will also mean that those who conserve their energy best, and are in the best physical condition, will have an advantage. In short, the 74th U.S. Women’s Open is going to be a major championship test in every sense of the word.

Ron Sirak is a Massachusetts-based freelance writer who frequently contributes to USGA digital channels.

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