HOUSTON — The opening round is in the books at the U.S. Women’s Open, and with pristine late-fall weather and a slight breeze, conditions were close to perfect to begin the final major of 2020.
With an unprecedented two courses in play for the first two rounds, it had a different feel from majors of years past, but with limited daylight hours to work with, the change was a necessary one. Despite the unusual circumstances, players came away from the day generally pleased with a fair, challenging setup and bracing themselves for the impending carnage that each U.S. Open promises.
Here are three takeaways from the first round at Champions Golf Club.
1. Surprise name atop the leaderboard
The best players in the world are in the field this week in Houston, but through 18 holes, an unlikely name sits atop the leaderboard. Amy Olson shots a four-under 67 on the Cypress Creek course Thursday, securing the outright lead by day’s end.
Olson’s day got off to a so-so start as she sat one-over through six holes, but with one swing of the club on the par-3 16th, her entire day turned around. With an 8-iron from 141 yards, Olson held a high fade into the breeze and watched as her ball trickled in for an unlikely ace.
“Obviously the hole-in-one was kind of the highlight of the round,” Olson said. “I was pretty excited to be able to do that at the U.S. Open. … I definitely allowed myself to celebrate there and enjoy the moment.”
Olson continued her momentum on the 17th as she poured in a birdie before adding two more on her closing nine to sign for a 67.
The 28-year-old is still searching for her first win on the LPGA Tour — let alone in a major championship — so seeing her name alone at the top of the leaderboard comes as the surprise of the day.
2. Bombers struggle early
The story of the U.S. Open earlier this fall was Bryson DeChambeau bomb-and-gauging his way to his first major title. So far at Champions, that bombs-away strategy does not appear to be a successful one.
The premier group of the LPGA’s three longest hitters — Maria Fassi, Bianca Pagdanganan and Anne van Dam — was circled as one of the most exciting groups to follow during the first two rounds. While the drives were certainly pretty, the scores were not.
Collectivelty, the group finished the day 15-over par. Pagdanganan finished one-over, van Dam two over and Fassi limped her way to a 12-over 83. Power is always an asset, but the golf course outfoxed the field’s biggest-bombing group in Round 1.
3. Cristie Kerr battles through injury
Six days ago it didn’t look likely that Cristie Kerr would even be able to tee it up in the U.S. Women’s Open. After a scary golf cart accident at the Volunteers of America Shootout, her prospects of being able to play in the year’s final major looked slim. However, with just nine holes of practice under her belt, the 20-time LPGA winner was able to scrap together an even-par 70.
“I played great and just managed and stayed balanced and positive,” she said. “(I) took my pain meds during the round when I had the opportunity to, and I made it.”
Kerr said post round that early in the week she would have called someone “crazy” if they suggested she would be able to play this week. But after a promising practice session on Wednesday, she decided to give it a go.
“I’ve been working my butt off,” Kerr said. “I’ve getting up in the morning and been icing for two hours, and in the evening too. I’ve done everything I can do to play.”