Some of the worlds best players will actually feel as if theyre escaping pressure when they step inside the ropes Thursday morning, or that theyre escaping the kind of pressure they arent comfortable with for the kind of pressure they crave.
Theyll reach the first tee leaving behind relentless questions about the future of the LPGA and their embattled commissioner to immerse themselves in what could be one of the most demanding tests of their time.
Saucon Valley Country Clubs Old Course is a beast at 6,740 yards. Its the second longest layout in the history of the championship with greens that roll and twist in confounding contours.
I think Sunday afternoon, after everything is done, theres going to be a lot of mentally tired players, eight-time LPGA winner Paula Creamer said.
Stress and strain have mounted on and off the course with news early in the week that key LPGA players delivered a letter to their organizations board of directors asking for the resignation of commissioner Carolyn Bivens. The discontent is focused on the loss of title sponsors and a shrinking schedule.
Ochoa didnt dispute her involvement in the preparation of the letter when she stepped before assembled media Wednesday.
Everybody has been talking about it, and we, as players, want to be more involved in what is happening, and we want to see the tour going in a better direction, said Ochoa, the worlds top-ranked player. Hopefully, things will start moving in a good direction, because we are worried that were losing tournaments and we want to get back on a good track.
One player after another entering the media room this week has been asked about the controversial letter.
I want to perform and do my best, just leave everything else outside, Ochoa said.
Bivens was scheduled to attend the championship on Thursday, but tour officials confirmed that she has canceled her appearance.
The U.S. Womens Open is all about stress and pressure and overcoming adversity. Its about survival. Its a theme that fits this entire LPGA season with pros worried about their tours future.
Saucon Valley, though, will demand their full focus.
Its a phenomenal, classic U.S. Open course, said Christina Kim, a two-time LPGA winner. Immaculate condition, long course, nasty rough, challenging greens, tests every club in the bag. Its all of that, and its fair.
Ochoa, 27, believes the routing favors her left-to-right ball flight as she bids to regain her status as the tours most dominant player.
Ochoa arrived for last years U.S. Womens Open having won six times on the season. She enters this year having won twice. When Jiyai Shin claimed the Wegmans LPGA two weeks ago for her second victory of the season, she moved into first place on the Rolex Player of the Year points race and on the tours money list.
A two-time major championship winner, Ochoa wasnt a factor in the years first two majors.
Competition is tough, we all know that, Ochoa said. We know good players are coming, and its getting better and better. Im just trying to practice harder and harder. Ive already won two tournaments this year, but Im not at the top. I want to make sure I continue playing and getting better, every week being consistent, so that at the end of the year, Im at the No. 1 position, the way I like.
Ochoa is looking to win her first U.S. Womens Open.
Creamer, 22, is looking to claim her first major in her 21st start in one. Shes paired with Ochoa and In-Kyung Kim in the first two rounds.
Hopefully, we can feed off each other and make a lot of pars and birdies, Creamer said.
If this championship really is about overcoming adversity, Creamers fully prepared, despite her limited practice regimen.
After starting the season with a mysterious stomach malady, Creamer began feeling better last month, only to injure her left thumb. She was unable to defend her title at the Jamie Farr Owens Corning Classic last week because of inflammation of the thumb joint. She has received two cortisone shots over the last week.
My thumb feels much better, Creamer said. A lot of ice and Advil are my two favorite things right now.
In her first four seasons on tour, Creamer never withdrew from an event. She has withdrawn from three this season.
Its been frustrating, Creamer said. It feels like a character building year, because Ive been through a lot.
Its been the hardest year Ive had out here. I thought 06 was because I didnt win, but Id rather go through that year than this.
The way Saucon Valley is set up, nobodys likely to escape hardship this week.