Players work to focus on golf at U.S. Women’s Open

Much of the talk this week surrounding the U.S. Women’s Open is about the name of the course on which the national championship will be played, rather than the tournament itself.

The U.S. Women’s Open kicks off 72 holes of stroke play competition on Thursday at Trump Bedminster Golf Club in Bedminster, N.J., about 45 miles due west of New York City.

The fact that the tournament is being conducted at a facility owned by President Donald Trump has brought the presence of Secret Service and a gaggle of media outlets that rarely cover women’s golf.

Many questions in the player press conferences over the first part of the week focused on the politics and attitudes toward women by President Trump, rather than the preparation to contest a difficult and demanding golf course.

It’s been hard to separate the politics of the event from the event itself, but the players, including 2014 U.S. Open winner Michele Wie, have been doing their best.

“I will not comment on any political part this week,” Wie said Tuesday. “This week is about the golf for me. I’m excited to compete in this championship and it’s really purely about the golf. I’m here to grow the game and bring more junior girls into the game. My goal this week is to play as well as I can, hopefully showcase my best game and to inspire more girls to join the game.”

Established 71 years ago in 1946, the U.S. Women’s Open is the only event to have been recognized as a major by the LPGA since the group’s founding in 1950. This year’s event boasts one of the strongest fields of the year as 156 players, including 19 of the world’s top 20 players, compete for the season’s third major title.

World No. 1 So Yeon Ryu of South Korea headlines the field, with 10 former champions competing this week.

Second-ranked Ariya Jutanugarn of Thailand is also in the field as she looks to pick up her second major title after winning the Ricoh Women’s British Open last season. She’s also a former USGA champion who won the U.S. Girls’ Junior championship in 2011.

World No. 3 Lexi Thompson is the top-ranked American in the field and looking to win her country’s national championship for the first time. She also captured the U.S. Girls Junior (in 2008).

Former world No. 1 Lydia Ko of New Zealand, currently No. 4 in the standings, is searching for her first win of the 2017 season while 2015 U.S. Women’s Open champion In Gee Chun of South Korea rounds out the top-five ranked players in the field.

Defending champion Brittany Lang seems to produce her best golf at the U.S. Open. The 31-year-old kick-started her U.S. Women’s Open career with a bang, finishing tied for second as an amateur in 2005 at Cherry Hills Country Club south of Denver. She hasn’t missed a cut at the U.S. Women’s Open in a decade and has two other top-10 finishes to go along with her victory last year at CordeValle in northern California.

Last year, Lang defeated Anna Nordqvist of Sweden in a three-hole aggregate playoff to capture her first major title.

“I always seem to play well at the U.S. Open,” Lang said. “I have been hitting the ball very well, which is always essential for this tournament. I love the USGA — I always love the venue they pick and how they set up the course. It’s the biggest test of the year for us and the biggest event in women’s golf.”