HOUSTON – Amy Olson faded an 8-iron into the par-3 16th at Cypress Creek, landing the ball two paces short of the flag to a tucked hole location on the right side of the green. She could see the ball trickle into the hole from 141 yards away. Olson, 28, threw her hands in the air and screamed, “Yes!” as she walked toward her caddie.
There was a slight cheer from the few folks on hand, but even aces are celebrated low-key style in the pandemic age. Still, it was a shot to remember for the Day 1 leader at the 75th U.S. Women’s Open. Olson topped the field of 156 at 4-under 67. Yu Jin Sung delivered the day’s second ace from 169 yards on the fourth hole at Cypress. She jumped up and down with glee.
A total of 23 players broke par on a sun-splashed Champions Golf Club, where the championship is being contested over two courses for the first time in history. The Cypress Creek course (74.590) played a full stroke harder than Jackrabbit (73.462) in the first round.
“I definitely allowed myself to celebrate there and enjoy the moment,” said Olson. “Honestly, pace of play was really slow out there today, so I had some time to kind of calm myself and come back to it.”
A trio of players trails Olson by one stroke, including 2019 AIG Women’s British Open winner Hinako Shibuno, Moriya Jutanugarn and A Lim Kim.
Amateur Linn Grant of Sweden is among those in a share of fifth at 2 under, along with 2020 AIG Women’s British Open winner Sophia Popov, Charley Hull, Gerina Piller and 19-year-old Yuka Saso of the Philippines.
Piller finished T-5 at last year’s U.S. Women’s Open but has struggled for much of the 2020 season. The Texas resident took time away from the tour in 2018 after giving birth to son A.J.
“After coming back from having the baby, I think my body, you may not see it physically, but I know it’s changed and my swing has changed, and it’s taken me a while to kind of get comfortable in that,” said Piller, who played the Jackrabbit course, “and I’m 35 years old, there’s no need to try to reinvent the wheel here.”
Champions founder Jack Burke Jr., the oldest living Masters champion, was on the first tee to watch Texas native Angela Stanford hit the opening tee shot on the Cypress Creek. Stanford won the LPGA stop in Dallas last week but struggled mightily on Thursday, making two double-bogeys in her first four holes. She opened with a 9-over 80.
Stacy Lewis, a Houston resident who grew up playing tournaments at Champions as a kid and is now a member, shot 1-over 72 at Cypress Creek.
“I know I’m not out of this thing by any means,” said the former No. 1, “but I do need to play a good round tomorrow.”
Lewis planned to grill hamburgers or steak at home with her family and try to get her daughter, Chesnee, to bed on time. She can’t get over the simplicity of playing a major at home.
Olson is here on her own this week. Her husband, Grant, and parents plan to join her at next week’s CME Group Tour Championship. Grant is a linebackers coach at their alma mater, North Dakota State, where Olson won an NCAA record-tying 20 times. With football season being pushed to the spring, Grant wanted to get in a little hunting. If it weren’t for COVID-19 testing protocols, he would most likely have come on the weekend.
Being on top of the board at a USWO isn’t entirely new to Olson, who led a rain-delayed Round 1 at the 2011 championship at The Broadmoor when she was a junior in college. The 2009 U.S. Girls’ Junior champion said she had a carefree attitude back then and likely didn’t think much about it.
— LPGA (@LPGA) December 10, 2020
While she has contended in several majors in her time on tour, most notably finishing runner-up to Stanford at the 2018 Evian Championship. Olson admits that given how easy the wins came in her amateur career that expected to hoist a trophy early on in her LPGA career.
Lewis said Champions’ courses suit Olson in particular because her high ball-flight presents a distinct advantage. Past experience helps, too.
“It has been, I think, a test of my patience,” she said. “But the biggest thing I’ve learned is just perspective and what do I consider success, and at the end of my life it’s not going to be a number of tournaments that I’ve won, it’s how I live my life, so trying to maintain that perspective, I think, is really important for me.”
original article link https://golfweek.usatoday.com/2020/12/10/us-womens-open-amy-olson-leads/