Toronto Star

Olson aces challengin­g course at U.S. Open

One of only 11 players to break 70 on opening day; Canadians stay close


HOUSTON— Winning once felt easy to Amy Olson.

She captured the U.S. Junior Girls her second time playing the tournament, won a record 20 times while at North Dakota State and went 4-1 in her lone Curtis Cup appearance.

In seven years on the LPGA Tour, however, she’s still looking for that first title.

“Coming out here, I expected to win really early. It always kind of came easy to me in college,” Olson said. “It’s not easy to win out here. You have to put four really good days together.”

She got one out of the way Thursday in the U.S. Women’s Open. Olson got back to under par with one swing, an 8-iron for a hole-in-one on her seventh hole, the 16th at Cypress Creek, and kept right on going until she had a 4-under 67 and a one-shot lead at Champions Golf Club.

She also had the18-hole lead at Royal Troon in the Women’s British Open before following that with an 81. Olson was one hole away from winning the Evian Championsh­ip two years ago until a double bogey on the final hole.

“It has been, I think, a test of my patience,” Olson said.

And even on a perfect day for scoring, it was clear this Women’s Open would be a stern test.

Olson was among only 11 players who broke 70 on the Cypress Creek and Jackrabbit courses. For the first time, two courses are being used for the opening rounds because of the limited daylight by postponing the premier event in women’s golf to December.

Brooke Henderson of Smiths Falls, Ont., is the top Canadian after firing a 1-over 72 on the Jackrabbit course, while Hamilton’s Alena Sharp opened with a 4-over 75 at Cypress Creek.

Out of 156 players, only 36 were at par or better.

“We had absolutely perfect weather today and 4 under is leading,” Champions member Stacy Lewis said after a 72. “I don’t think scores are going anywhere.”

Moriya Jutanugarn managed to keep bogeys off her card on the Jackrabbit course for a 68, leaving her tied with former Women’s British Open champion Hinako Shibuno (Cypress Creek) and A Lim Kim (Jackrabbit).

Sophia Popov was among the group at 69. She figured it would be a long shot to be in the U.S. Women’s Open this year when the USGA had to scrap qualifying because of the COVID-19 pandemic. And then when golf resumed, Popov earned a spot in the Women’s British Open and won at Royal Troon.

And now she’s already in the mix at the U.S. Women’s Open, along with so many others. Asked if she had come down from the cloud of her surprise major victory, Popov smiled and said, “Am I down yet?”

“I’m trying not to come down off of it. I quite like it,” she said. “But yeah, I think it took me a couple weeks, but after that it was back to reality. You’ve got to grind, you’ve got to practice, you’ve got to do everything the same way you did before, just now you have a lot more events to play and better events to play.”

None of the top five in the world ranking broke par. Jin Young Ko opened with a 73, while Sei Young Kim had a 72. Nelly Korda, playing for the first time in two months because of back pain, had only one birdie in her round of 73. Danielle Kang didn’t make any birdies and shot 72.

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