BEDMINSTER, N.J. (AP) — This U.S. Women’s Open is going to be unpredictable, and we’re not just talking about the golf.
The biggest event in women’s golf will share the spotlight with President Donald Trump. His Trump National Golf Club is the site of the tournament that starts Thursday and has no clear favorite. It’s uncertain whether Trump will attend the event, which runs through Sunday.
The USGA awarded the site in 2012 and later came under pressure from women’s groups and three Democratic U.S. senators — Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut, Edward Markey of Massachusetts, and Bob Casey of Pennsylvania — to move the event because of Trump’s comments about women and minorities.
It refused, keeping it at the course located only a few miles from its headquarters in Far Hills.
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“When we came here, this was all about coming to a great golf course and playing the greatest championship in women’s golf,” USGA executive director and chief executive Mike Davis said at a media day in May. “The USGA, since its founding in 1894, has never been involved with politics. Our focus is solely on the game of golf.”
Whether that decision draws protest remains to be seen.
The president’s attendance is unclear. He has accepted an invitation from President Emmanuel Marcon of France to attend a Bastille Day celebration on Friday, which is during the second round of the tournament.
Trump has been one of the biggest boosters of women’s golf. He hosted the LPGA’s season-ending ADT Championship at his Trump International Golf Club in West Palm Beach, Florida, in the early 2000s, and some players stayed at his Mar-a-Lago mansion.
Players have avoided talking about his controversial comments.
Defending champion Brittany Lang called the Women’s Open her favorite tournament and said she would never miss it.
Veteran Cristie Kerr, who won the U.S. Open in 2007 and is a member of Trump National, says she tries to stay away from politics and focus on the good in people.
The golf should be interesting, at least based on what has happened on the LPGA Tour this year. In the first 17 events, only So Yeon Ryu of South Korea won more than once.
Every week someone new steps up and wins. Danielle Kang did it last weekend, capturing the major KPMG Women’s PGA Championship for her first LPGA Tour title.
“I think this year is really, really competitive,” Ariya Jutanugarn, who is ranked third in both earnings and points for player of the year, said Wednesday at an event in Wisconsin. “Even when I played great golf in a few weeks, I still finish second or third. But it’s fun. It’s more fun because a lot of girls start to play so good and they become amazing golfers.”
The tournament will be played on Trump National’s Old Course, which opened in 2004. Laid out on the open fields of an old farm, it’s 6,732 yards and features undulating greens, large bunkers and a variety of holes playing over and around small lakes and groves of trees.
“I don’t really think you ever necessarily play well at a U.S. Open, you just kind of survive the U.S. Open,” LPGA non-winner Katie Burnett said Thursday. “Who can survive it at the end of the week is usually who wins.”
The end can be surprising, too.
Last year, Lang won the title in a three-hole playoff when Anna Nordqvist was assessed a delayed two-shot penalty for touching the sand with her club in a fairway bunker on the second playoff hole.
Nordqvist, who was tied with Lang after the first two playoff holes, was not told of the penalty until she hit her third shot on the final hole.
The USGA also visited Trump National in 2009 for the U.S. Girls’ Junior and U.S. Junior Amateur.