"I'm still very far away from Lorena, but I'm starting to think I can win."
Minea Blomqvist knows that to win this year's U.S. Women's Open (June 26-29) she will have to successfully navigate the Interlachen Country Club course (par 72, 6,789 yards) in Edina, Minn., and find a way to beat Lorena Ochoa. The third-year player from Finland (1) is so determined to challenge Ochoa that when she misses the cut at a tournament, Blomqvist, 23, often joins Ochoa's gallery. "I follow her," Blomqvist says, "because she's the one to beat."
Ochoa, who began the year winning four consecutive events and the first major of the year, is the heavy favorite at Interlachen. But in an event where relatively unknown golfers have won in recent years (Birdie Kim in 2005, Hilary Lunke in 2003 and Alison Nicholas in 1997), it's worth a closer look at the lesser-knowns who could win the Open. Blomqvist caught our attention when she shot a 62 at the 2004 Women's British Open at the age of 19. At the time, no golfer had gone that low in a major (Ochoa shot 62 in the 2006 Kraft Nabisco Championship). Blomqvist also had three top-eight finishes in her first eight tournaments this year.
I follow her because she's the one to beat.'
Joining her on our list of long shots is Yani Tseng (2), a 19-year-old from Taiwan who nearly beat Ochoa at the Ginn Open in April after finishing second at the MasterCard Classic in March. You might recall that Tseng knocked off Michelle Wie in the 2004 final of the U.S. Women's Amateur Public Links. When asked if she could beat Ochoa, Tseng said, "She's great, but I think I can. She's beatable."
Sweden's Louise Friberg (4) knows what it's like to best Ochoa. She won the MasterCard Classic in March (Ochoa finished T-8).
Perhaps the real sleeper pick for this year's Open is South Korea's Jee Young Lee (3). The third-year player finished no worse than 13th in all four 2007 majors (second at the British Open).