By Ann Liguori
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BEDMINSTER, N.J. (CBSNewYork) -- The top women women golfers began battling Thursday for the most coveted title in our country as 156 players are teeing it up in the 72nd U.S. Women's Open Championship. The venue is Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, on the Old Course, which is set up at 6,732 yards and will play to a par of 72.
Some in the media have tried to focus on the political aspects of the USGA playing the U.S. Women's Open on a course President Donald Trump owns. But I feel this major championship -- any major -- should be about the impressive talent playing, not about what one thinks of the course's owner, positive or negative. To take away from women who compete here with attention focused on politics is doing the players an injustice. The attention and recognition should be focused on the incredible golfers playing at Trump National and how tough it is to win golf's ultimate test. And they all know how focused they have to be to have a shot at winning.
The Old Course was designed by Tom Fazio and opened in 2004. The players will face severe, undulating greens, large bunkers, water on many of the holes and wide, tree-lined fairways. The player who comes in with the sharpest, all-around game, with a premium placed on approach shots, has the best shot to contend. And obviously, handling the pressure of closing out a major championship is paramount.
Juli Inkster, who won two U.S. Women's Open titles (1999 and 2002) and is working the championship as a Fox Sports commentator this week, was asked what type of player will be successful on this course. Inkster likes the "high, long hitters, someone like Amy Yang, someone like maybe a little bit of Gerina Piller," she said. "I think you need to hit a high ball. You need to come in from the air on these greens. You need to be precise with your irons. You need to play smart."
"This is a golf course where your caddie is going to come into play," adds Inkster. "I know as a player I see the hole location and the flag stick and I'm going right at it. You have to be able to talk to your player and say, we need to go here on this hole. It's going to be a good, working relationship between caddie and player.
"I think your second shot is the most important shot on this golf course," Inkster continued. "The fairways are pretty generous between 35 and 40 yards wide. Most of the LPGA players are very good drivers of the golf ball. I think your second shot is going to be important here."
Cristie Kerr, who won the U.S. Women's Open title in 2007, said this course has everything.
"It's long. It's not super tight off the tee, but there's plenty of rough, so you have to hit the fairways," Kerr said. "This course has firmed up today. … The greens sped up considerably. ... It's going to be a mental grind out there. It's very demanding on every shot, especially the up-and-downs around the greens."
Ten former U.S. Women's Open champs are here, including Kerr, Paula Creamer, Inbee Park, Karrie Webb and Michelle Wie. Kerr and Webb are playing in their 22nd straight U.S. Open.
Brittany Lang is the defending champion. The 31-year-old has struggled this year, however, finishing no better than 13th place in 14 events.
Lexi Thompson is the top-ranked American in the field, and third in the world. Thompson, with seven top-10 finishes this year and winner of a major title in 2004 – the ANA Inspiration – is hoping to win her first U.S. Open title.
It's been a tough year for the 22-year-old. Thompson is playing with a heavy heart, as her mother, Judy, is battling uterine cancer, underwent surgery in early June to have a tumor removed and is now undergoing radiation treatments. Judy walked the course with Lexi during Wednesday's practice session.
Thompson was penalized four strokes at this year's ANA Inspiration during Sunday's round for an infraction she committed on Saturday, after a TV viewer called in to the LPGA. She eventually lost to So Yeon Ryu on the first playoff hole.
The top-ranked Ryu, of South Korea, comes into the U.S. Open as the only player in the field who has won twice this season – the ANA Inspiration and the Walmart NW Arkansas Championship. No. 2-ranked Ariya Jutanugarn of Thailand has earned nine top-10 finishes in 16 events.
The talented Lydia Ko, who at only 20 years of age has accumulated 14 LPGA Tour titles, two Australian LPGA victories and is a three-time winner of the New Zealand Women's Open, is hoping to win her first U.S. Women's Open. She won the U.S. Women's Amateur in 2012 at the age of 15.
"It's my favorite tournament," Kerr said. "It's our national championship as an American. It's hard, you know. It's the hardest test in women's golf consistently year after year, and it means the world."
Trump may make an appearance at his course this weekend, and I'm sure he will be very impressed with the level of play and how fan friendly the players are.
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