Championship Sunday brings with it a special excitement. The task for the competitors becomes more difficult in part because the golf course has evolved over four days into a more formidable challenge, but mostly the obstacle grows because a USGA championship is on the line. The final round of the 5th U.S. Senior Women’s Open presents such a test.
This is the eighth time Waverley Country Club has been host for a USGA championship and once again the historic course has proven to be a fair but firm examination of the physical and mental skills demanded by golf. The brilliance of Waverley lies in its diabolical greens. To putt them well, the approach shot must be placed properly and that’s easiest done from a tee shot that finds the fairway. In short, a complete game will be needed to win here.
Here are 3 things to keep an eye on Sunday at the U.S. Senior Women’s Open.
Poised to Pounce
Trish Johnson has a one-stroke lead over Catriona Matthew heading into the final round, which is a good omen for her. Only once in the previous four U.S. Senior Women’s Opens has the winner come from behind on Sunday. In 2018, Laura Davies was up five after 54 holes and won by 10. Helen Alfredsson was tied with Trish Johnson after three rounds in 2019 and won by two strokes. Annika Sorenstam was two strokes ahead going to the final round in 2021 and prevailed by eight strokes. Last year, Jill McGill trailed Alfredsson by a stroke going into the final round and outlasted Leta Lindley by one stroke, becoming the first come-from-behind Sunday winner.
Right behind Matthew, two strokes back, are Leta Lindley and Moira Dunn-Bohls. Nicole Jeray is three off the lead with Tammie Green four back and Annika Sorenstam trailing by five. Could this be the year someone comes from well back to win? It hasn’t happened yet in this championship but there are certainly names in Johnson’s rearview mirror capable of getting the job done.
For the Love of the Game
A record nine amateurs made the cut and Sunday’s final round should be a compelling shootout for the silver medal. Judith Kyrinis leads the way at 219 followed by Terrill Samuel (221), Sue Wooster (222), Martha Leach (223), Ellen Port (226), Kathy Hartwiger (226), Corey Weworski (226), Patty Ehrhart and Andrea Miller (228).
Leach was the low amateur in the inaugural U.S. Senior Women’s Open in 2018 so she’s familiar with final-round pressure. Port won the U.S. Women’s Mid-Am four times and the U.S. Senior Women’s Amateur on three occasions so she also knows what it takes to get the job done. The race for low amateur is a fun watch in the game within the game. And along with the medal, the low amateur gets a spot in this year’s U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur, which takes at Stonewall in Pennsylvania next month
One of the themes of the week at Waverley Country Club has been to survive the front nine and then attack the back. On Saturday, the front played to a stroke average of 37.51 while the incoming nine was 36.37 – more than a stroke easier. Also, the two most getable holes on Waverley are the back-to-back par-5s at No. 17 and 18 while the third par-5 on the back nine – No. 13 – was the fourth easiest hole. If someone is going to make a move, it could be done on the closing holes.
The brilliant greens at Waverley present enormous demands when trying to make up-and-down to save par, so hitting greens in regulation is extremely important. Sharing the top spot in GIR after 54 holes are Leta Lindley and Moira Dunn-Bohls by hitting 46 of 54 greens. They also share third place, two strokes behind Trish Johnson. If they keep hitting greens at that rate they will be major threats on Sunday.