Since it was announced six years ago that iconic Pebble Beach would host the U.S. Women’s Open, players, fans and everyone associated with women’s golf had the week circled in permanent ink
Somehow, the final product exceeded the hype.
Equal parts beauty and golf history permeate every step and view at the storied venue. Finally, the best players in the women’s game have a chapter of their own alongside the likes of Nicklaus, Watson and Woods. In a week where Pebble Beach yielded a scoring average nearly three strokes over par, a former first-team All-American from the University of Southern California – 25-year-old Allisen Corpuz – engraved her name into golf history.
Approach play sparks success for Corpuz
Again, elite approach play proved to be the differentiating factor at the top of a major championship leaderboard. Corpuz showed off exquisite iron play all week long, leading the field in average proximity to the hole on approach shots. Only two players hit a higher rate of greens in regulation for the week over four rounds. She was also one of just two players to gain at least a full stroke each round with her approach play – last year’s champion, Minjee Lee, was the other.
Last month at the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship, it was excellent iron play that fueled Ruoning Yin’s run to her first major title at Baltusrol. Yin entered the week leading the LPGA Tour for the season in strokes gained approach per round. For the week, she gained more than 9.5 strokes on the competition with her approach shots, most of any player in the field. After last week at Pebble Beach, five of the last seven major champions have ranked eighth or better that week in strokes gained approach.
Of course, that wasn’t the only facet of Corpuz’s game that was in top form last week. Her scrambling rate of 72.0% was tied for second-best in the field, a steep increase from her season average of 58.5% she carried into the week. And in the final round, Corpuz’s putter caught up to the rest of her bag: After going 2-for-12 on putts from 10 to 20 feet through three days, she made 4-of-6 from that range on Sunday. Her 2.57 strokes gained putting in the final round was sixth best of any player.
Corpuz was the second American major winner of the season, joining The Chevron Championship winner Lilia Vu. This marks the first time since 2014 that American players have claimed multiple major wins in the same season. That year, Lexi Thompson and Michelle Wie West won at Mission Hills and Pinehurst No. 2 in the first two majors of the season. Could this major success be a harbinger of what’s to come later this year in Spain at the Solheim Cup? The last time American players won multiple majors in a Solheim Cup year was 2007. That September, the U.S. went to Sweden and won on European soil, 16 to 12.
Corpuz has finished in the top-15 in each of the season’s first three majors, one of just two players with that distinction (Xiyu Lin is the other). Of the 22 players to make the cut in each major, Corpuz’s cumulative score to par of 19-under is 10 strokes better than anyone else.
No player has ever won the U.S. Women’s Open starting the final round more than five shots off the lead. That almost changed on Sunday, when Charley Hull surged from six off the pace squarely into contention on the back nine. Hull’s Sunday 66 tied the low round of the week and was just one shot off the lowest final-round score in the history of this championship. The Englishwoman excelled through the bag Sunday, gaining more than four strokes on the field tee-to-green and more than three-and-a-half strokes on the greens.
Hull entered the week ranked a respectable 54th on Tour this season in strokes gained putting per round. She was on another planet with her putter last week, though, easily leading the field in that metric for the week. Hull made a whopping 11 putts of 10 feet or longer over the course of the tournament, including two of 20-plus feet on Sunday.
Rose continues rise
It wasn’t the breakthrough major win that many feel is imminent, but Rose Zhang put together a second consecutive top-10 finish in a major last week. Zhang is one of just two players to finish in the top-10 at both the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship and the U.S. Women’s Open this year – Ayaka Furue is the other. Zhang is now up to 37th in the Rolex Women’s World Rankings with just three professional starts on her ledger.
Zhang gained strokes on the field in each of the four primary categories – off-the-tee, approach, around the green and putting. She wound up ranked seventh in the field in strokes gained tee-to-green, picking up at least two shots on the field in that metric in each of the last three rounds. Rose hit 14 of 18 greens in regulation in the final round, tied for second-best of any player on Sunday.
Familiar name near the top
Even though Jiyai Shin had not played in a major championship in four years before last week at Pebble Beach, maybe her tie for second place shouldn’t have been a surprise. After all, she was coming off a victory in her previous start on the JLPGA Tour, capping off a run of six consecutive top-10 finishes on that circuit. This season, she’s in the top-five on the JLPGA Tour in birdie average, ball striking, total driving, scoring average and bounce-back rate, just to name a few.
Shin had pinpoint accuracy off the tee, missing just six of 56 fairways for the week. The two-time major winner ranked among the leaders for the week in both strokes gained tee-to-green and putting. The tie for second place was her best showing in a major since winning the 2012 AIG Women’s Open.
Year of the final-round comeback
Corpuz trailed Nasa Hataoka by a shot entering the final round at Pebble. This means that all three major winners so far this season trailed through 54 holes – a stark contrast to 2022, when all five majors were won by players who had at least a share of the 54-hole lead. In fact, in the 17 previous women’s majors before this year, just four winners trailed going into Sunday.
This is the first time in seven years that the first three majors of a season were won by players trailing going into the final round. In 2016, Lydia Ko, Brooke Henderson and Brittany Lang won the year’s first three majors, each charging from the pack on the last day.
The Amundi Evian Championship begins July 27.