Lexi Thompson plays a practice round for the U.S. Women's open Tuesday. (Photo/Patrick Blain)

US Women’s Open picks: One winner, five to watch

Posted: July 7, 2015 9:58 pm

A couple weeks back I wrote, under the headline, “Inbee Park: Best in the world at what she does,” that “we all know,” who the player to beat in the U.S. Women’s Open is.

I’d like to amend that a bit. Park is indeed the world No. 1. Her major-championship record suggests the biggest stages don’t trouble her. Suggest that’s an understatement, in fact.

But Park’s game is precision tee-to-green, and insanely good putting. Those are always good things, but perhaps not at an extreme premium this week, on this golf course.

Park is A player to beat, but not, it says here, THE one to beat this week, on this ballpark.

Five to watch, and one winner, all predictions thoroughly suitable for ignoring:

5. Hyo Joo Kim – Was watching this 20 year-old rookie hit balls Tuesday – one elegant, technically perfect, dance with physics after another – when a gentleman beside me looked over and said, “can you believe this?”

Have no idea if she can do it. L.C.C. might be took long for her. But she is ranked fourth in the world, and is coming off two straight top 10s, one in a major. Didn’t play in Arkansas last week.

4. Suzann Pettersen – Butch Harmon-led swing change seems to have taken hold. Seventh in the last major, the Women’s PGA two weeks back, and she won the previous week, and was fifth two weeks before that.

Seemed to have a good handle on the golf course when she played here Sunday. My courses-for-horses theory here is that you might be able to get away with less-than-lights-out putting this week, but not with lack of length. That seems like a Pettersen-friendly formula.

3. Anna Nordqvist – Swede is quietly putting together an excellent year that probably ought to be better; she’s second on tour in both greens in regulation and putts per greens in regulation. How do you beat that?

She’s sixth on the money list, seventh in the world rankings, and her last four outings have been third, ninth, 15th and first, at the ShopRite in Atlantic City.

2. Inbee Park – The course may not be a perfect fit, and she did miss the cut in Arkansas, shooting one under par over two days when no putts fell.

Still, the Women’s PGA last month was her sixth major. Only eight women have won more, and she doesn’t turn 27 until Monday. The best player of her generation has to be in the middle of the discussion.

1. Lexi Thompson – Tall, powerful, athletic kid who’s stuck in a weird place for an athlete. Among a long list of “one-of-the-youngest-ever-to,” feats, she played in the U.S. Open at age 12. She’s won four times including a major in four-plus years on tour, but there are now younger players with better resumes.

Can you be a prodigy and a veteran at the same time?

Still, the tweaks she’s made to her mechanics – smoothing out a steep and almost violent downswing – seem very sound. She was third in the PGA, has four top 10s since April. And with her length, Thompson seems an excellent fit for Lancaster Country Club.

It feels like she’s ready to take this step.