Tour Confidential: Women’s Open surprises, Bob Mac’s win with Dad

nelly korda yuka saso and robert macintyre

It was a week full of surprises in professional golf.

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Check in every week for the unfiltered opinions of our writers and editors as they break down the hottest topics in the sport, and join the conversation by tweeting us at @golf_com. This week, we discuss the U.S. Women’s Open, Robert MacIntyre’s familial victory, an interesting Ryder Cup decision and more.

Yuka Saso burst onto the scene with an unexpected U.S. Women’s Open victory in 2021, but after a couple of winless seasons she picked up her second career LPGA victory at this week’s U.S. Women’s Open at Lancaster Country Club. Was this an unexpected winner?

James Colgan, news and features editor (@jamescolgan26): I’m not sure I’d call a player who finished 2nd and T3 at the KPMG and Evian last year an ‘unexpected’ winner. Some players have a gift for playing well when the conditions get tough. A 68 on Sunday — when only 13 players in the entire field played under par — would seem to be proof.

Zephyr Melton, assistant editor (@zephyrmelton): It’s not as if Saso disappeared the last couple of years — she just didn’t win. As James noted above, she finished inside the top 3 twice in majors last summer. It was only a matter of time before she broke through and won on the biggest stage again. I’d be surprised if this is the last time we see Saso hoist the trophy on major Sunday.

Josh Sens, senior writer (@joshsens): I’d love to have a so-so year like Saso had in 2023. Winning’s hard. So many things have to go right (like, for instance, Nelly Korda missing the cut). And then you have to be ready when they do. Saso was. Great combination of power and poise. I second Zephyr. I’d be surprised if she doesn’t repeat the feat before long.

Alan Bastable, executive editor (@alan_bastable): Surprising: Nelly Korda missing a cut. Not surprising: A player who already has proven she can win a U.S. Women’s Open doing it again. And Yuka did it by dropping the hammer. Four birdies in a five-hole stretch on the back nine as the other contenders were struggling to make pars? That is seriously stout stuff. Also cool: that Yuka has now won U.S. Opens for two countries that never had one (Philippines in ’21 and Japan this year).

One player who didn’t make the weekend at Lancaster was 29-year-old Lexi Thompson, who stole the headlines earlier in the week when she announced that after this season she’ll no longer play a full-time LPGA schedule. Surprised? Not surprised? 

Colgan: The timing was unexpected, but the news wasn’t. Lexi has long appeared from afar to be one of golf’s most tortured players. No amount of money or fame is enough to overcome plain disenchantment with the life of a pro golfer. Good on her for making a decision for her happiness.

lexi thompson tips her cap during the second round of the 2024 u.s. women's open
Lexi Thompson’s emotional message after U.S. Women’s Open missed cut
By: Zephyr Melton

Melton: I’m not shocked by the news. Lexi has cut back on her playing schedule considerably over the last few years and hasn’t played exceptionally well when she has teed it up. And considering she turned pro at 15(!) she’s been playing pro golf for almost half her life. That’s a long time to be on the grind.I hope she can find happiness in the next stage of her journey.

Sens: Not surprised at all. It’s a big world out there, and Thompson had long seemed ready to break from the small corner of it she’s been living in. It’s no secret that the tunnel vision required to compete at that level requires a ton of personal sacrifice. She’s over it. For now, anyway. Good for her for recognizing that. Even better, she’s young enough that she can always return to it if she has a change of heart.

Bastable: ​​OK, I’ll bite. Color me surprised! Yes, Thompson has had a rollercoaster couple of years, but she found her form again in the back half of 2023 and looked to be reasserting her position among the LPGA’s alphas. She even had a new ball deal for this year! I did not see her pulling the plug. Then again, I get it. She’s only 29 but has been under the spotlight at least since she played in a USWO at 12 and, on a more local level, long before that. Sooner or later the grind gets to you.    

Even when she wasn’t playing well, Thompson had long been a fan favorite and someone the women’s game was strongly marketed behind. How big of a blow will her full-time absence be to the LPGA Tour? 

Colgan: Well, it’s obviously a considerable blow to the LPGA, but it mainly means the burden falls to the rest of the game’s stars. I was impressed with how Nelly Korda handled a disastrous week, and I thought the timing was telling where the attention will shift.

Melton: It will certainly be felt, but luckily the Tour has Nelly’s starpower to market now. If someone like Rose Zhang or Lilia Vu can rise up to challenge her, the LPGA will be just fine.

Sens: James and Zephyr have said it well. I would just add that this hardly feels like an abrupt departure. More like a gradual phasing out, as she’d already been cutting back and not putting herself in contention in many big events when she did. This is not a sudden gut punch.

Bastable: Big loss for sure. Not just because she brings to the women’s game (and, last fall, the PGA Tour) a brand of grip-it-and-rip-it golf that is so much fun watch but also because she understands the importance of her star power (several players last week mentioned Thompson’s dedication to waving the LPGA flag at pro-am parties). I witnessed this myself just a few weeks ago at the Founders Cup pro-am pairings party in northern New Jersey. Lexi wasn’t just there to check a box. She was smiling, shaking hands and present

What event from the past week was more surprising? Nelly Korda recording a 10 and missing the cut, or Charley Hull going viral (and gaining a ton of publicity and social media followers) for, well, a cigarette?

Colgan: Nelly was the best player on the planet, male or female, over the last six months. Her dumping three in the water on the third hole at the national championship isn’t just the most surprising development of the week, it’s the most surprising non-jail-related development in pro golf during this major season.

Melton: Gotta be Nelly. Seeing her make a 10 was downright shocking. The only thing more shocking would’ve been waking up to her mugshot, a la Scottie Scheffler.

charley hull smokes a cigarette during the 2024 u.s. women's open
How a cigarette turned Charley Hull into a cult hero at U.S. Women’s Open
By: Zephyr Melton

Sens: Based on what we know about social media by now, does anything that happens on it ever count as surprising anymore? Nelly’s 10 all the way.

Bastable: Tough to compare the two, but I was fascinated by the reaction to the Hull video. Feel like the virality of the moment could easily have gone two ways for her: Gasp! A pro golfer tugging on a ciggy in front of young fans! Or…Amazing! A pro golfer with vices and weaknesses just like the rest of us! Clearly the public embraced Hull’s everywoman appeal, and the balance tipped toward praising her. Really interesting to watch this sociology experiment play out in real time. If the LPGA had a PIP ranking, Hull might be in poll (pull?) position.       

Robert MacIntyre, with his dad caddying, shot a final-round 68 to win the RBC Canadian Open to claim his first career Tour victory. This comes just weeks after the Scot talked about battling homesickness and getting comfortable with the PGA Tour’s more business-like environment. Is this an important element of the game we often overlook when it comes to non-Americans trying to have success on Tour?

Colgan: I think the learning curve on the PGA Tour is steep for anyone, particularly a proper Scottish son like Bob MacIntyre, and I’d say the same for living full-time in Orlando, Fla.

Melton: Life on the road can get lonely! I’ve experienced it, and my travel schedule pales in comparison to Tour pros. I can’t imagine having to live out of a suitcase across the pond — let alone making my homebase Orlando for my rare offweeks. 

Sens: Wait, James, are you suggesting that Orlando might not in fact be the Happiest Place on Earth? I’m canceling my Disney trip. Tour pros are people, too, so, of course, those types of adjustments matter. But I don’t think we overlook them. We often hear stories about the interplay between the personal and the professional, and how what happens off the course affects what happens on it, and the other way around. Sometimes, we even hear about it in tabloid headlines. 

Bastable: Credit to Bobby Mac for baring his soul and giving us the PGA Championship’s most interesting presser this side of Scottie Scheffler’s post-arrest musings. The camaraderie the Europeans enjoy on the DP World Tour is in short supply stateside, where there’s far more of an every-player-for-himself mentality. MacIntyre clearly isn’t accustomed to the lone-wolf lifestyle, and it’s been wearing on him. Maybe a PGA Tour title will make him feel a bit more at home.          

In a newly created role, former caddie and NBC Sports reporter John Wood was named “Team Manager” of the U.S. Ryder Cup team (which still doesn’t have a captain for 2025). Could you see this being an important role the Americans need, or a simple case of overthinking after last year’s lopsided loss?

Colgan: I loooooooooove this decision. Whatever the truth was behind Patrick Cantlay’s Hatgate saga last fall, it still spoke volumes about the state of the American team room that the allegation arose in the first place. John Wood lives and breathes the Ryder Cup, and giving him the latitude to manage team-building in lieu of a captain’s announcement is a no-brainer.

Melton: First it was a task force, now it’s a “Team Manager.” Have the Americans considered simply not getting their a**es kicked in foursomes every two years?

Sens: Seems like doing CPR on a dead man. Couldn’t hurt. But I doubt it affects the outcome.

Bastable: Getting John Wood back on the squad in any capacity is a win. Smart. Funny. Musical. True renaissance man. Good for team vibes.

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