The U.S. Women’s Open makes its much-anticipated debut at Pebble Beach Golf Links this week, the first time the USGA has hosted a women’s championship at the famed course on California’s Monterey Peninsula since the 1948 U.S. Women’s Amateur. It’s one of four visits the Women’s Open is scheduled to make at “the greatest meeting of land and sea” between now and 2048.
Not surprisingly, a record 2,107 players submitted entries to try to qualify for this year’s championship, with a handful of past champions making the trip to see history up close. Michelle Wie West, the 2014 Women’s Open winner at Pinehurst, played just twice on the LPGA Tour in 2022 but the 33-year-old will make her competitive farewell this week as she has said she will retire after playing in the championship for the 18th time.
The USGA also extended three special exemptions, with two going to past World No. 1s Annika Sorenstam and So Yeon Ryu. The third recipient, Rose Zhang, no longer needed the special exemption she received after her groundbreaking victory last month in her professional debut at the Mizuho Americas Open as she vies for a major title on a course where she shot the competitive women’s scoring record (63) last fall in a college event.
Jin Young Ko, who just passed Lorena Ochoa for the most weeks ever as the No. 1 player in the Rolex World Rankings, is among the total of nine past World No. 1s vying to hoist the Harton S. Semple Trophy.
To prepare for the coming week, we poured through the entire 156 player field and ranked the 25 most likely to claim the title come Sunday.
25: Jiyai Shin
Rolex Ranking: 33 Starts: 9 Best Finish: T-5, 2010
The former World No. 1, who relinquished her LPGA membership in 2014 to compete full-time on the JLPGA Tour, is making her first U.S. Women's Open start since 2019. Shin's won three times this year, making it 64 worldwide wins as a professional, including two LPGA majors (2008, 2012 Women's British Open).
24: Cheyenne Knight
Rolex Ranking: 35 Starts: 3 Best Finish: T-15, 2022
The 2023 season has been the most consistent of Knight's career, with eight top-20 finishes. She hopes that continues after having her best career major finish at last year’s Women’s Open at Pine Needles.
23: Celine Boutier
Rolex Ranking: 14 Starts: 6 Best Finish: T-5, 2019
A flaming hot start to 2023 (five top-15s in six starts) has chilled for the Frenchwoman, who has two missed cuts and one top-15 over her last five appearances.
22: Linn Grant
Yong Teck Lim/R&A
Rolex Ranking: 23 Starts: 2 Best Finish: T-23, 2020
Grant's first stroke-play start in the U.S. since earning her LPGA membership came at Baltusrol, where she finished T-20. She's only finished outside the top 20 twice in 11 total starts on the LPGA as a member.
21: Jenny Shin
Rolex Ranking: 79 Starts: 12 Best Finish: 10, 2014
Four straight top-20s, including back-to-back top 10s, are fueling the 13-year-veteran's resurgent run of late. Shin held her own at Baltusrol and the KPMG Women’s PGA (T-8) considering her last LPGA win was the 2016 Volunteers of America Texas Shootout.
20: Carlota Ciganda
Rolex Ranking: 30 Starts: 11 Best Finish: Third, 2018
An impressive closing 64 at Baltusrol sent Ciganda soaring up the leaderboard to a T-3 finish, her third top-10 over the Spaniard's last four starts. She, too, is looking for her first LPGA victory since 2016.
19: Lydia Ko
Douglas P. DeFelice
Rolex Ranking: 3 Starts: 11 Best Finish: T-3, 2016
A win a Pebble locks up Ko’s LPGA Hall of Fame spot, too, and it feels doable given her success at nearby Lake Merced more so than her recent form. The Kiwi won three times at the San Francisco course where as Ko has got one top-10 in eight starts in 2023.
18: Mina Harigae
Rolex Ranking: 72 Starts: 12 Best Finish: Second, 2022
If you value the person with the most experience at the course, Harigae's your pick. The Monterrey, Calif., native grew up playing Pebble Beach and has proven chops at the U.S. Women's Open with her runner-up showing last year. A victory would be the first of her 14-year LPGA career.
17: Ariya Jutanugarn
Rolex Ranking: 57 Starts: 4 Best Finish: Win, 2018
Dating to her victory at Shoal Creek, Jutanugarn has posted a top 10 in three of the last five U.S. Women's Opens. It's been an up-and-down season for the former No. 1, but the Thai star comes in off three top-20s in her last four starts, including a runner-up at the Meijer LPGA Classic.
16: Lilia Vu
Rolex Ranking: 4 Starts: 2 Best Finish: T-34, 2022
Vu is now a marquee talent coming off her two wins this season, including her major breakthrough at Chevron. But she’s also dealing with a back injury having missed the cut in her last three stroke-play starts following the Chevron victory.
15: Anna Nordqvist
Rolex Ranking: 31 Starts: 14 Best Finish: T-2, 2016
Nordqvist has an opportunity to win her fourth of the five LPGA majors. Her KPMG Women's PGA Championship weekend low 66-65 earned the 36-year-old Swede her best finish of the year at T-3, making it top 20 finishes in five of her last six tour starts.
14: Nelly Korda
Rolex Ranking: 2 Starts: 8 Best Finish: T-8, 2022
Korda's game is tailored for Pebble Beach, which will demand accuracy into pin-drop-sized greens. Can she rediscover her form following a week off after a surprising 11-over-par effort at the KPMG Women's PGA? That perplexing performance knocks her slightly down the rankings.
13: Brooke Henderson
Rolex Ranking: 11 Starts: 10 Best Finish: T-5, 2015
Henderson is becoming more consistent following a Tournament of Champions victory to begin the year. The Canadian's T-15 at the KPMG Women's PGA is her third-best result of 2023.
12: Ashleigh Buhai
Rolex Ranking: 15 Starts: 8 Best Finish: T-27, 2017
A T-39 at the KPMG Women's PGA ended an extended stay atop leaderboards for the South African, including her fourth win worldwide over the last 11 months at the Shoprite LPGA Classic.
11: Atthaya Thitikul
Rolex Ranking: 7 Starts: 1 Best Finish: T-24, 2022
Thitikul missed her first cut in nearly a year at the KPMG Women's PGA, with 15 top-10s, a win, and a trip to the top of the World Rankings since not playing the weekend at last July's Trust Golf Women's Scottish Open.
10: Megan Khang
Rolex Ranking: 26 Starts: 10 Best Finish: T-4, 2021
Majors have brought the best out of Khang, with a T-9 at the Chevron and a T-3 at the KPMG Women's PGA her top results in 2023. However, over her career, she’s steadiest at the U.S. Women's Open, having posted top-10s in four of the last five.
9: Yuka Saso
Rolex Ranking: 24 Starts: 4 Best Finish: Win, 2021
Saso broke a streak of four straight missed cuts at majors with a runner-up at Baltusrol. It mirrored her recent return to form after Saso missed four consecutive cuts before top-10s at the Mizuho Americas Open (T-7) and the KPMG Women's PGA.
8: Hyo-Joo Kim
Rolex Ranking: 8 Starts: 7 Best Finish: Playoff Loss, 2018
Kim's T-20 at the KPMG Women's PGA is her second-worst finish of the year. Her steady season has her leading the tour in scoring (69.4).
7: Ayaka Furue
Rolex Ranking: 17 Starts: 2 Best Finish: MC, 2020, 2022
Furue keeps rolling. A T-8 at the KPMG Women's PGA marks six straight top-20s and four top-10s over that stretch. This week, she may beat her best major finish, a solo fourth at the 2021 Evian.
6: Xiyu Lin
Rolex Ranking: 9 Starts: 8 Best Finish: T-7, 2021
Lin’s rise—back-to-back T-3s coming into Pebble—correlates with her best finishes at the U.S. Women's Open, both coming in the last two years (T-11 in 2022).
5: Rose Zhang
Darren Carroll/PGA of America
Rolex Ranking: 45 Starts: 4 Best Finish: T-40, 2022
You'll hear it plenty this week—Zhang holds the Pebble Beach women’s competitive course (63), carded during the second round of the Carmel Cup last September. She's quickly proven her transcendent amateur talent translates to the top of LPGA leaderboards, with a win in her maiden start and a T-8 at the KPMG Women’s PGA.
4: Minjee Lee
Rolex Ranking: 6 Starts: 9 Best Finish: Win, 2022
The winner a year ago at Pine Needles has four straight top-20 finishes heading into Pebble. Having won eight LPGA titles, she’s yet to defend in any of them, providing another incentive this week. She’s posted at least two top-10s at majors in each of the last three seasons, aiming to earn her first one of the season at Pebble.
3: Ruoning Yin
Rolex Ranking: 5 Starts: 1 Best Finish: MC, 2021
Yin may prove Golf Channel commentator Grant Boone's call quite prescient when he heralded her victory at the DIO Implant LA Open, "In the shadow of Hollywood, a star may have been born." The KPMG Women's PGA winner could become the first multiple-time major champ in a season since Jin Young Ko in 2019.
2: Leona Maguire
Rolex Ranking: 10 Starts: 4 Best Finish: T-8, 2022
Her final-round stumble after being the 54-hole leader at the KPMG Women's PGA was frustrating, but she remains in great form now with four straight top-11 finishes. A needed week off after a four-week gauntlet is likely all the refresher needed to contend again.
1: Jin Young Ko
Rolex Ranking: 1 Starts: 6 Best Finish: T-2, 2020
It's time for the World No. 1 to take home her third major title. Ko has yet to finish outside the top 20 in her last six starts at the U.S. Women's Open, including three consecutive top-10s. On a course demanding plenty of homework to understand, Ko and her team got to Pebble early last week, winding down by watching rounds of past U.S. Opens held there.