The U.S. Women’s Open is living up to its reputation as the toughest test in golf. It might get easier once the tournament begins.
Lydia Ko is trying to end a year without winning, So Yeon Ryu is going for her second major of the year and Brittany Lang is trying to become the first back-to-back winner since Karrie Webb in 2001. All of that has been an afterthought because of the golf course.
Specifically, the owner of the golf course.
Trump National in Bedminster, New Jersey, was awarded the U.S. Women’s Open five years ago when Donald Trump was still buying golf courses and starring in reality TV shows. Now he’s President Donald Trump, and there has been no shortage of criticism that the USGA is playing its top championship for women on his golf course.
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Every interview with players featured questions about Trump, like whether he should attend the event and the infamous “Access Hollywood” tape that surfaced during the campaign, in which he bragged about women letting him grab them. No interview featured much of an opinion. Players, all of them expecting such questions, preferred to talk about golf.
“There’s just really no benefit to getting wrapped up in politics,” Cristie Kerr said. “That’s what I have to say about that. Maybe if I was in politics … I don’t think I’d be electable, anyways.”
The campaign to be the next U.S. Women’s Open champion starts on Thursday. The pressure is likely to come from the prestige of the biggest event on the LPGA Tour schedule, not to mention the $5 million purse, the richest in women’s golf.
The women are almost on equal terms as the men this week. The John Deere Classic has a $5.6 million purse, the smallest among PGA Tour events that offer full FedEx Cup points. It also has a weak field, with only one player from the top 20 in the world — Daniel Berger at No. 20.
The biggest names are in Scotland for the Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open, where Rory McIlroy and Henrik Stenson are trying to win for the first time this year and get some momentum for the British Open next week at Royal Birkdale. The PGA Tour Champions has another major — they already played one on a Trump course. This one is the Constellation Senior Players Championship at Caves Valley outside Baltimore.
U.S. WOMEN’S OPEN
Lang was among those who didn’t want to talk Trump, saying at one point, “I would love to answer a golf question for you if you have one.” She wasn’t up to speed on the changing rules, either, such as the decision the USGA provided in April that players can avoid a penalty if a violation cannot be detected by the naked eye. That would have spared Anna Nordqvist last year in a playoff loss to Lang.
Lang hasn’t won since that victory at CordeValle .
More surprising is that Ko hasn’t won since her 14th career victory last year at the Marathon Classic , a week after the Open.
Ryu already has one major this year at the ANA Inspiration. She also already has a U.S. Women’s Open title that she won in 2011 when she was still in college and not even a member of the LPGA Tour.
Television: Thursday-Friday, 2-7 p.m. (FS1); Saturday-Sunday, 2-7 p.m. (Fox Sports).
JOHN DEERE CLASSIC
For a sleepy tournament with great local support, the John Deere Classic has provided plenty of highlights over the years. Go back 21 years, and it’s where Tiger Woods had his first 54-hole lead on the PGA Tour and lost (he won the next 20 from that position).
What makes the field look weaker than usual is Jordan Spieth choosing not to play, instead getting over to the British Open early. Spieth holed a bunker shot to get into a playoff in 2013, which he won at age 19. Two years later, a week before heading to St. Andrews to go after the third leg of the Grand Slam, he won another playoff .
Steve Stricker is back, going for his fourth John Deere Classic title. He won with a birdie from a tough lie in a fairway bunker on the 18th hole in 2011. And then there was 2010, when he opened with a 60 and still wasn’t the best score — Paul Goydos shot 59 .
The leading player from the top 5 gets into the British Open if he’s not already eligible. That’s how Spieth got to his first British Open in 2013.
Television: Thursday-Friday, 4-7 p.m. (Golf Channel); Saturday-Sunday, 1-2:30 p.m. (Golf Channel), 3-6 p.m. (CBS).
Stenson is back at Troon, where he won the British Open last year in a duel for the ages against Phil Mickelson. Only he’s not at Royal Troon. The Scottish Open goes to Dundonald Links, about 5 miles away. Stenson hasn’t won this year, and neither has McIlroy.
Rickie Fowler is among three top Americans in the field. Fowler won the Scottish Open in 2015 when it was across the country at Gullane. Alex Noren is the defending champion , winning last year at Castle Stuart.
Television: Thursday-Friday, 5:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. (Golf Channel); Saturday-Sunday, 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. (Golf Channel), 12:30-3 p.m. (NBC).