Major championship golf, by and large, demands experience as a contributor to success, and Lee-Anne Pace has played in 33 majors ahead of the US Women’s Open which tees off on Thursday at the Olympic Club in San Francisco.
The reigning South African Women’s Open champion played her way into her seventh US Women’s Open with her victory on May 16 at Westlake Golf Club, and will be drawing on her experience in those six previous visits to the tournament to try and improve on her best finish of 43rd in 2017.
Her victory at Westlake came under trying circumstances, mostly as a result of the weather, but those would have prepared her to hang in there when the going will get tough as it inevitably does in any major championship. In the last three US Women’s Opens, of the 59 players who have played eight rounds or more, only five have cumulative scores of under par.
Pace will know that hanging in is making sure the simple things are done right, and that hitting fairways and greens will give her the best chance of making whatever few birdies are on offer. The past 15 champions have shown well-rounded games en route to victory, but they have shone most brightly around the green. While they ranked 20th in the field on average in driving distance (249.6 yards) and about 25th in fairways hit (73.4 percent), they truly separated themselves by hitting 69.1 percent of the greens in regulation. They were on average third in the field with 3.96 birdies/eagles per round and had 29.3 putts per round.
The South African has a good record over a long Ladies European Tour career in terms of greens in regulation, hitting 62.8 percent of them over 183 tournaments, but she will be aware that she will have to make very sure of her accuracy throughout the week at the Olympic Club. And her putting over those many tournaments in Europe averages out at 30.04 per round.
She has the tools to go with her experience, but she is not the most experienced of the three South Africans in the field. Ashleigh Buhai has 36 majors behind her, and will be playing in her eighth US Women’s Open with a best finish of 27th in 2017. With her experience in the United States – she plays on the LPGA Tour – she may well have a sense of comfort during a difficult week.
The third South African in the field is Nicole Garcia, who first qualified for the US Women’s Open at Pinehurst in 2014 through the European qualifier in England. Like Pace, she got in to this year’s tournament at the Olympic Club with her performance in the SA Women’s Open at Westlake.
The tournament gets full coverage on SuperSport channel 201 from 11pm on Thursday.