All eyes on Pebble Beach as the U.S. Women’s Open is set to get underway

Mark McGowan

Leona Maguire (Photo: Kathryn Riley/USGA)

The stars of the women’s game will rightly take centre-stage this week at the 78th U.S. Women’s Open at Pebble Beach, with the famed Monterey Peninsula links set to host a women’s major for the very first time.

In total, 12 past champions will tee it up, with all 11 of the season’s LPGA Tour winners in attendance along with 46 tournament debutants and representatives from 30 countries worldwide.

After a win at the Meijer Classic and a KPMG PGA Championship performance that saw her lead for much of the tournament, Leona Maguire is among the favourites but she’ll have her work cut out if she’s to take her maiden major title at the historic venue.


Hoping to follow in Graeme McDowell’s footsteps after G-Mac made history when becoming the first Irishman to win America’s oldest and most prestigious championship here in 2010, on a course that has some of the smallest green complexes and where accuracy and precision are likely to be paramount, the two-time LPGA Tour winner certainly has all the tools to tackle Pebble Beach.

Maguire will play alongside the United States’ Jennifer Kupcho and Thai Atthaya Thitkul on Thursday and Friday, with their first round not due to get underway until 22:24 Irish time.

Without Stephanie Meadow for company, Maguire has Irish company in the shape of Clare amateur Aine Donegan, who tees it up in a major for the first time having successfully passed the 36-hole examination that is U.S. Open qualifying at Peninsula Golf Club last month.

Louisiana State University student Donegan’s week began in nightmare fashion as her clubs failed to arrive when she touched down in California, and though United Airlines located the bag and had it flown in the next day, a snapped driver was the cherry on top of the nasty dessert that awaited the 21-year-old.

Having self-confessedly only entered qualifying for the fun, she got to play a practice round with the legendary Annika Sörenstam in practice and has major winning duo of Patty Tavatanakit from Thailand and Korean Sung Hyun Park for company in rounds one and two, the former getting underway at 15:33 Irish time.

20-year-old sensation Rose Zhang, set to make her third professional start, has taken to the pros like a duck to water and the bookmakers make her favourite to make it two wins from three starts since putting pen to paper after winning the NCAA Championship back in May.

The Augusta National Women’s Amateur champion is one of the few players in the field to have played competitively at Pebble Beach and it clearly fits her eye as she shot a 63 in the second round of last year’s Carmel Cup representing Stanford University, but this is a U.S. Open and the questions posed by Pebble Beach will be significantly different than those asked last Autumn.

Other stories of interest for the week are Michelle Wie West, playing her final U.S. Open before retiring at the relatively tender age of 33. One of the true trailblazers of women’s golf, Wie as she then was, made her LPGA Tour debut at the age of 14, and played against the men of the PGA Tour several times after graduating from Stanford University and embarking on an LPGA career that saw her take five victories including a historic U.S. Open triumph.

Alas, for Wie West, injury and other factors contributed to her decision to transition from the golf course to the boardroom, but what better way to draw the curtain on a storied career than an against the odds victory at a truly iconic venue.

Lexi Thompson, at the age of 28, is preparing for her 17th U.S. Open having made history in becoming the youngest ever qualifier at the age of 12 back in 2007, and became the youngest winner of an LPGA event when she captured the Navistar LPGA Classic back in 2011 aged 16. Thompson has just the one major title to her name, but a string of second-place finishes including a 2019 runner-up at the U.S. Open.

Defending champion is Australian Minjee Lee, who, in keeping with USGA tradition, will play alongside U.S. Amateur champion Saki Baba from Japan and reigning British Open title holder, South African Ashleigh Buhai.

Annika Sörenstam, at the age of 52, is the oldest player in the field, having earned her exemption by winning last year’s U.S. Senior Women’s Open, and her grouping with Wie West and Korea’s In Gee Chun is sure to attract large galleries and heavy television coverage.


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