3 Things to Know: 77th U.S. Women’s Open, Round 1

By David Shefter, USGA

| Jun 01, 2022 | SOUTHERN PINES, N.C.

3 Things to Know: 77th U.S. Women’s Open, Round 1

77th U.S. Women's Open Home

All of the prep work is done; notes taken, strategy mapped out. It’s time for the 156 players in the 77th U.S. Women’s Open Championship Presented by ProMedica to officially start counting strokes at Pine Needles Lodge & Golf Club, the Donald Ross gem hosting this championship for a record fourth time.

By Sunday, one competitor will hoist the Harton S. Semple Trophy and be awarded the Mickey Wright Medal. In order to take home the $1.8 million top prize from the record $10 million purse, the champion will need to prevail over four mentally and physically grueling days in temperatures expected to reach into the lower 90s.

Here are 3 Things to Know going into Thursday’s opening round:

Happy to Be Here

World No. 2 Nelly Korda is making her return to competitive golf this week after a four-month hiatus due to a blood clot in her left arm. Prior to the setback, Korda was enjoying a run that included her first major title, the 2022 KPMG Women’s PGA Championship.

This week, she not only has to shake off competitive rust, but also find a way to exorcise her U.S. Women’s Open demons. Korda has only one finish inside the top 30 in seven starts (T-10 in 2018 at Shoal Creek) and has missed the cut the last two years.

“To tee up and to hit my first shot on Thursday,” said Korda, 23. “That is as far as I'm looking right now. I've been out of competition since early February, and I'm honestly just grateful to be out here. I'm not expecting too much.”

Ji Whiz

It’s not often that a player gets a qualifying mulligan for the U.S. Women’s Open. But 2009 U.S. Women’s Open champion Eun-Hee Ji took advantage of a rare second chance last week. With her 10-year exemption for winning at Saucon Valley Country Club expired, Ji didn’t meet any of the exemption criteria when entries closed in April.

Although she signed up to play in the May 4 qualifier in Fort Myers, Fla., Ji elected not to compete, hoping to get into the field by winning one of the remaining LPGA Tour events leading into Pine Needles.

Last Sunday, she pulled that off, winning the Bank of Hope Match-Play Championship at Shadow Creek in Las Vegas, where Ji became, at 36, the oldest Korean champion in LPGA Tour history. Her win in the 18-hole final over Ayaka Furue, of Japan, gave Ji the last spot in the U.S. Women’s Open and enables her to make a 15th consecutive start. She is one of 12 past champions teeing it up.

Fight On

Mention USC around these parts and people might think you’re talking about the University of South Carolina. This week at Pine Needles, another USC is dominating the field: the University of Southern California.

The Trojans can boast of 11 competitors with school ties, headlined by 2020 AIG Women’s British Open champion Sophia Popov and 2019 U.S. Women’s Amateur champion Gabriela Ruffels. Two other Trojans – Annie Park and Allisen Corpuz – are past USA Curtis Cup competitors.

One of the 11 is actually a future Trojan. Bailey Shoemaker, who plans to officially commit to USC in November, was the co-runner-up in this year’s U.S. Women’s Amateur Four-Ball Championship in Puerto Rico with Kaitlyn Schroeder.

If you hear a few “Fight On!” chants from fans this week, you’ll know the reason.

David Shefter is a senior staff writer for the USGA. Email him at dshefter@usga.org.