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en’s Open to be played in California, following 1964 at San Diego Country Club (won by Mickey Wright) and 1982 at Del Paso Country Club in Sacramento (Janet Alex). Corde- Valle, a Robert Trent Jones, Jr. design tucked into the lovely foothills 30 miles south of San Jose, was a capable host for the PGA Tour’s Frys.com Open from 2010-2013. It’s a small sample size but based on the cham- pions it produced the course doesn’t seem to favor any particular style of play. Rocco Mediate (’10) is short and straight off the tee, deadly with his irons and shaky on the greens; Jimmy Walker (’13) is long and a little wild with his driver and a fabulous putter; Jonas Blixt (’12) makes his living as a preeminent wedge player. “It’s always exciting to go to a brand-new venue,” says Ko. “It eliminates any course knowledge factor and puts everyone


on a level playing field. From a fan’s perspective, it makes the practice rounds a bit more important because everyone is preparing really hard.” Ko, who at press time has 11 LPGA victories at the tender age of 19, will certainly be one of the favorites going into the Open. The strength of her game is that she has no weakness, and her low-key Kiwi sensibilities are perfect for the pres- sure-cooker of the Open. Of course, Park will always be a co-favorite. Golf ’s queen ‘Bee already has one of the greatest Open records of all-time, with wins in 2008 and ’13 and five other top-10s, including a near-miss last year. Turns out that never miss- ing a fairway or a putt is a pretty good recipe for success at our national championship. At 6', with the mus- cular build of an Olympic swimmer, Thompson can overpower any golf


course, and she’s already picked off one major championship, the Dinah Shore in 2014. But Lexi, 21, is women’s golf ’s answer to Sam Snead: an awesome physical talent who may not have the mental game to handle the rigors of the Open. It will be fascinating to watch her take on the many doglegs and elevation changes at CordeValle. But as Ko points out, “I don’t think you can ever really have a favorite for the Open because it’s such a unique tournament. There’s no way to prepare for the course setup and the pressure. That’s why it’s so exciting, because you never know what’s going to happen. I already can’t wait for that week.” Seconded. . .by me, Steph and


Andre.


ALAN SHIPNUCK is a senior writer for Sports Illustrated. His introduction to golf came as a cart boy at Pebble Beach Golf Links.


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