Jennifer Kupcho and Maria Fassi both earned 2019 LPGA Membership thanks to their finishes at the 2018 Q-Series and became the first players to take advantage of the LPGA Tour’s new deferral policy. Both players opted to push accepting their Membership to following the completion of the 2018-19 collegiate golf season.
Those decisions paid great dividends. On April 6, Kupcho and Fassi walked arm in arm up the fairways at Augusta National Golf Club, finishing first and second respectively at the inaugural Augusta National Women’s Amateur. Six weeks later at the NCAA National Championship, Fassi took the individual title for the University of Arkansas women’s golf team, while Kupcho’s Wake Forest University team was runner-up for the team title.
Now, with their amateur days behind them, Kupcho and Fassi are ready to move to the next phase of their professional careers. The 2019 U.S. Women’s Open marks the professional debuts for the two newest rookies on the LPGA Tour.
“I've been dreaming about this for 14 years and it's soon to be a reality. So I'm super excited,” said Fassi, who is playing in her third U.S. Women’s Open. “There's not a better event to make my professional debut than the U.S. Open, so I'm super excited. Thankful with the way my process has been, and just ready to tee it up tomorrow.”
“To get to play against the best players in the world on the biggest stage for my first event is really exciting,” agreed Kupcho, who is also competing in her third U.S. Women’s Open. “A little bit nerve-racking, but it will be fun.”
Kupcho and Fassi will strike their first balls as professionals in the same group, both playing at 8:28 a.m. off the first tee, alongside 2015 U.S. Women’s Amateur runner-up Sierra Brooks.
GO TIME FOR MORGAN PRESSEL
Morgan Pressel first qualified for the U.S. Women’s Open as a 12-year-old in 2001, then the youngest player in championship history. Four years later, at age 16, she was co-runner-up in a wild finish at Cherry Hills Country Club. No matter the outcome, she had quickly realized her dreams of playing professional golf against the best players in the world.
“The U.S. Open has really been special to me for that reason first,” said Pressel, who became a major champion at the 2007 ANA Inspiration. “I always enjoyed the championships. I love tough golf courses. I think they suit my game well and it’s our national championship. I think it’s the most important event on our schedule.”
Fast forward to 2018 and Pressel failed to qualify for the U.S. Women’s Open, ending a streak of 12 consecutive championship appearances. Pressel expressed that was “one of the most disappointing moments of my career. Missing an event that’s been so important to me and is such a big event on our schedule.”
This year, Pressel was again forced to return to sectional qualifying, this time reaching the championship by taking medalist honors at Marin Country Club. “It was definitely a relief,” said Pressel. “It’s like, okay, you made it through. Let’s go compete at the U.S. Open.”
The 31-year-old American is making her 16th U.S. Open appearance this week and looks to secure the third win of her career. She will tee off at 2:02 p.m. off No. 1 with fellow Americans Gerina Piller and Paula Creamer.
REVERSE REDAN HOLE IS A HOT TOPIC AT USWO
A major talking point ahead of Thursday's opening round at the Country Club of Charleston has been the iconic par-3 11th, a reverse Redan hole which is dramatic in its setting and already has most of the players thinking about damage limitation here: somehow eke out a par and move on. With a false front of about 25 yards, the elevated green slopes from front left to back right and two very deep bunkers guard either side of the putting complex. This is the designated Aon Risk Reward Challenge hole for the week and risk abounds if an imprecise shot is hit here off the tee.
"It's kind of the hole where, okay, you accept bogey," said Morgan Pressel, who at age 12 in 2001 became the then-youngest player to qualify for the U.S. Women's Open. "If it happens, give yourself a good look at par, and I think that's probably everybody's strategy going into the week. Being aggressive doesn't really help you on that hole. I hit a lot of shots from the right bunker. I'd say missing right is probably better than left. Going long is better than short. It's kind of weird to think about missing a green on a par 3, where you have your best opportunity to make an up and down, but you definitely need a different mindset going into that hole."
The 11th hole is course designer Seth Raynor's version of the original Redan hole, the par-3 15th at North Berwick in Scotland. Sam Snead once ping-ponged his way to an ugly 13 on the 11th while Ben Hogan suggested that the green should be blown up after he ran up a bogey here.
"When I got to No. 11, I thought, 'Wow, this is the biggest hill on this golf course!' I was trying to figure out if that was a green or just a big hill," said 2008 and 2013 U.S. Women’s Open champion Inbee Park. "You don't want to be short of that hill off the tee. I'm kind of hitting like a low iron or a hybrid into the green, and it's going to be definitely a tough green to hit all week. You don't want to be to the left side. You don't want to be in that (left) bunker. It's far, and it's a very high bunker shot."
ROLEX WOMEN’S WORLD GOLF RANKINGS PROJECTIONS
The top 24 Rolex Ranking players are in the field this week at the U.S. Women’s Open, and four of them have a mathematical chance to overtake Rolex Rankings World No. 1 Jin Young Ko:
No. 2 Minjee Lee
- Win and have Jin Young Ko finish solo third or worse
- Solo second and have Jin Young Ko finish solo 19th or worse, Sung Hyun Park finish solo third or worse and Inbee Park does not win
No. 3 Sung Hyun Park
- Win and have Jin Young Ko finish solo third or worse
- Solo second and have Jin Young Ko finish solo 45th or worse, Minjee Lee finish solo third or worse, and Nasa Hataoka or Inbee Park do not win
No. 5 Nasa Hataoka
- Must win and have Jin Young Ko finish solo 23rd or worse and Minjee Lee finish solo third or worse
No. 7 Inbee Park
- Must win and have Jin Young Ko finish solo eighth or worse
There may be additional possibilities with tie scenarios and separate projection scenarios would be run to check.
The race for top American continues to be close, with four Americans ranked in the top 20 – No. 8 Lexi Thompson, No. 11 Nelly Korda, No. 13 Jessica Korda and No. 16 Danielle Kang. There are several scenarios that could move Nelly Korda, Jessica Korda or Kang ahead of Thompson in the Rankings based on their performances at the U.S. Women’s Open. Nelly Korda must finish in the top 28 if Thompson makes the cut and in the top 35 if Thompson misses the cut, with these scenarios also dependent upon the finishes of Jessica Korda and Kang. Jessica Korda needs a top-five finish and Kang needs a top-two finish, with movement also dependent upon the performances of Nelly Korda and Thompson.
For England, following Bronte Law’s win at last week’s Pure Silk Championship, three English players are in the top 25 for the first time in the history of the Rolex Rankings – No. 22 Georgia Hall, No. 23 Charley Hull and No. 24 Law.