BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — Ariya Jutanugarn, and her meltdown, was undoubtably the story on Sunday at the U.S. Women's Open. But take a step back from the blown lead and four-hole playoff that produced the first champion from Thailand, and you'll notice there was another angle to consider on Sunday: The American women finally turned it up and played their way into the top 10.
This is significant because things were looking a little bleak for the old Red, White and Blue after three rounds at Shoal Creek. Nelly Korda and Megan Khang were the highest ranking Americans at that point, and they were in both T-9. In 2017, at Trump National Bedminster, Marina Alex had been the top-finishing American at T-11. It was the worse best-finish for an American in the history of the championship. But the Americans in the field in Alabama didn't let another U.S. Women's Open go by without posting into the top 10. After a strong Sunday, they packed six women in the top 10, even if they didn't
Danielle Kang shot a final-round 69 to finish fourth at three under, eight shots back of winner Ariya Jutanugarn. Lexi Thompson made five birdies in her final round, finishing T-5. Michelle Wie, Nelly Korda, Angela Stanford and Khang all finished as part of a six-way tie for 10th.
It's natural for fans to expect or want the American women to do well in their home championship; the players feel the same way even if an American has won the event only three times since 2009.
"You definitely want to be an American winning the U.S. Open," Kang said. "Any time there's an American flag at the top, we're excited."
But that wanting to play well in the U.S., for the U.S., at the U.S. Women's Open, unintentionally creates pressure for American players.
"This is the U.S. Open and this is our national championship, it's a bit of added pressure all of us put on ourselves," Alex said. "It could be more of a hinderance than it is helpful. We definitely are capable of winning, it's just letting our good play show, and not letting the pressure of the situation, of it being the U.S. Open put a little bit of a roadblock on our ability to compete. It's more subconscious than anything. Everyone know what this tournament means. You just have to let that go and go play golf."