U.S. Women’s Open Preview: Fantasy, Betting picks

Preview – United States Golf Association’s 69th U.S. Women’s Open – Pinehurst Resort No. 2 – Pinehurst, North Carolina –

Pinehurst No. 2 is back on the center stage of golf hosting the U.S. Open for the second straight week – this time for the U.S. Women’s Open.

Host by the United States Golf Association, the tournament venue hosts the 69th U.S. Women’s Open as the LPGA Tour celebrates one of its biggest years ever. The tour beams with buzz as the top players are at the top of the leader board week in and week out.

Thick rough is absent with the restoration by Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw in 2011. The men’s U.S. Open last week at the layout showed a stellar shot game will be pivotal this week. Scrambling statistics will be front and center as missed greens could be the norm rather than the expectation.

Look for lightening fast greens this week — perhaps the fastest the players will see all season. The Donald Ross-designed layout will play 6,600 yards and to a par 70 for the championship.

The marquee opening round groupings includes Rolex Ranking No. 1 Stacy Lewis playing with defending champion Inbee Park and amateur champion Emma Talley teeing off No. 10 at 8:02 a.m. local time Thursday.

Both Lewis and Park enter this week off recent victories. Park won the ManuLife Classic in Canada two weeks ago, while Lewis captured the North Texas Open in May and the ShopRite in June.

High-profile players Lydia Ko, Lexi Thompson and Michelle Wie all arrive with triumphs this season.

2013 Recap:

  • Park (8-under-par) tamed the fast greens of the U.S. Women’s Open at Sebonack Golf Club in Southhampton, New York for a four-shot win. I.K. Kim was runner-up followed by So Yeon Ryu. Paula Creamer, Jodi Ewart Shadoff and Angela Stanford finished T-4.

ESPN and NBC Sports have extended television coverage Thursday and Friday. NBC takes exclusive coverage for the weekend. The Golf Channel schedules specials before and after network coverage through the week.

High temperatures near 100 and humid conditions are expected in the sand hills this week adding to the mental grind surrounding the U.S. Open.

FANTASY: Handling fast greens means Park is the pick. But, also consider Anna Nordqvist comes into the event with two victories earlier this season. Lexi’s distance off the tee should provide her an advantage into the greens with shorter irons. Although a fan-favorite and playing well, Wie might be overwhelmed with pressure this week especially around the greens. Creamer should factor at her nation’s Open.

BETTORS: Lewis and Park are co-favorites at 6-to-1 odds at followed by Ko (14-1) and Lexi, Shanshan Feng and Suzann Pettersen – all 16-1. Jessica Korda, at 50-1, is a great pick in this spot. She comes in under the radar a bit, but has two wins in 2014 including the Mobile Bay Classic in Alabama in late May. Keep in mind international-born players seem to play without as much pressure to win this title compared to U.S.-born players. So, consider taking a long shot like Caroline Hedwall in this spot at 100-1.

Other Golf News:

  • Martin Kaymer’s victory at Pinehurst last week showed the importance of a short game at this venue. He entered the week 111th in Strokes Gained Putting on the PGA Tour. He needed just 26 putts in the final round and finished first in Scrambling for the week.
  • Mike “Fluff’ Cowen, Jim Furyk’s caddie and a former looper for Tiger Woods, is on the bag for Ko this week.
  • Rory McIlroy is a big favorite at 3-1 odds to win the Irish Open. But, his clubs failed to arrive from his overseas flight following his U.S. Open appearance. Graeme McDowell and Victor Dubuisson are listed next at 16-1.
  • McIlroy also announced that he will represent Ireland, if he earns a qualifying spot on the future Olympic squad.
  • Lucy Li, just 11 years old, tees it up this week at the U.S. Women’s Open.