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US Women’s Open preview: Zhang making waves ahead of Pebble Beach test

The 78th US Women’s Open, the third major of the year, takes place this weekend as the best players in the ladies’ game prepare for the ultimate test at hallowed Pebble Beach.

It’s the first time since 1951 that the LPGA has visited the famous Californian links and fittingly a stellar field, including a galaxy of major winners, past and present world No.1s and a glut of rising stars, are ready to grace one of the most legendary layouts in golf.

All eyes are on 12/1 shot Rose Zhang, barely out of her teens but enjoying a meteoric rise to her fledgling professional career, though a battery of class acts of the calibre of Jin Young Ko, Atthaya Thitikul and Ireland’s Leona Maguire will also be hoping to hold aloft the trophy on Sunday night.

WhatUS Women’s Open
WherePebble Beach, California, USA
When15:00, Thursday 6th July - Sunday 9th July
How to watchbet365's Live Golf Tracker, Sky Sports Main Event & Mix
OddsRose Zhang 12/1, Jin Young Ko 14/1, Atthaya Thitikul 18/1, Leona Maguire 18/1, Hyo Joo Kim 18/1, Nelly Korda 22/1, Hye Jin Choi 22/1, Xiyu Lin 22/1

All eyes on Zhang, golf’s new sensation

A record 2,107 entries have been whittled down to a 156-strong field although there’s one name in particular who will be attracting most attention at Pebble Beach - Rose Zhang.

The Californian only turned 20 on 24th May and only turned pro a couple of days later yet here she is, heading into her third pro tournament as a 12/1 shot to take the spoils.

It’s easy to see why there is such expectation being piled on the shoulders of the Stanford star, who spent the best part of three years at the top of the amateur rankings.

Last year, at the Carmel Cup, she shot an outrageous course-record 63 at Pebble Beach, a nine-under-par masterclass which drew praise galore. "She’s got it," cooed Michelle Wie, not so long ago a superstar-in-waiting herself.

Zhang turned pro at the back end of May and duly won her first event at the Mizuho Americas Open. Next stop was her first major, the Women’s PGA at devilishly difficult Baltusrol, where she came home eighth.

There is little doubt Zhang has the potential to be something very special in the women’s game. But that doesn’t necessarily mean she’ll dot up at tricky Pebble Beach, especially given the quality of opponent she’s up against.

Ko aims to show she’s the boss

And few opponents will be stronger than Jin Young Ko, the current world No.1, who has been waiting four years to add to the two majors she collected in 2019.

The 14/1 chance has had 12 top-20 finishes in her last 17 majors, has already won twice this year on tour and her scoring average of 69.5 is second only behind Hyo Joo Kim, herself an 18/1 shot and among a slew of ladies who will fancy their chances.

Ko and her team arrived early at Pebble Beach last week, indicative of a talent who will leave no stone unturned in her quest to add a third major to her resume.

Maguire’s unfinished business after Baltusrol mishap

Leona Maguire will not be teeing it up at Pebble Beach as a major champion - though she knows she ought to be. And she’ll be hoping her best chance of landing a big fish didn’t disappear during a last-day meltdown at Baltusrol last month.

Europe’s Solheim Cup star was heading for glory in New Jersey a few weeks back, the only player to shoot three rounds in the 60s giving her the 54-hole lead at the PGA Championship.

Sunday, however, went all wrong, as she carded a disappointing 74, not even making the top 10, though she’s convinced the setback in Springfield has only made her stronger.

And at 18/1, a winner on tour this year and clearly playing well, she will still have her backers.

More names in the frame in wide-open event

Indeed, the US Open does look wide open with many players in good form on a course that will take some mastering.

Even players who missed the cut at Baltusrol, the likes of Nelly Korda (22/1) and Atthiya Thitikul (18/1), have the game to contend, Korda having won this title two years ago.

Lilia Vu, a 35/1 shot, and Ruoning Yin, at 30/1, have pocketed majors in 2023 so know what's required, while someone like Australia's 28/1 chance Minjee Lee has claims that are impossible to ignore.

Megan Khang (40/1) has posted top-10s in four of the last five US Opens, Xiyu Lin (22/1) has had back-to-back top threes arriving in Pebble Beach, while Ayaka Furue at 28/1 is rarely far from the frame these days.

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