SAN FRANCISCO – Love a good underdog story? Looking at Olympic Club’s history, that may be the only story it knows how to tell.
The Olympic Club hosts a women’s major championship for the first time as it welcomes the U.S Women’s Open. But the club is no stranger to major championship glory, or heartbreak, as it has seen its share of surprises and upsets.
It might have seemed like a fluke at first, when Jack Fleck beat Ben Hogan by three strokes to win in a playoff in the 1955 U.S. Open, in an upset for the ages. But it happened again in 1966, when Billy Casper defeated Arnold Palmer in a playoff. Casper was certainly more accomplished than Fleck, but it was Palmer’s collapse – leading Casper by seven with nine holes to play in regulation – that will forever be remembered.
In 1987, when Olympic hosted its third U.S. Open, it happened again as Scott Simpson defeated Tom Watson by a stroke. By 1998 an upset was expected, and Olympic delivered once again. Lee Janzen mounted a final-round comeback, overcoming a five-stroke deficit, to defeat good friend Payne Stewart. And in the most recent Open at Olympic, Webb Simpson held off major champions Jim Furyk and Graeme McDowell to capture his maiden major title.
If history is any indication, the winner of the U.S. Women’s Open at Olympic Club won’t come from the top of the Rolex Rankings. Rather, amateurs, up-and-coming players on the LPGA Tour, and those seeking their first major title are an ideal group to consider when looking for an underdog poised to pull off an upset at the season’s second major championship. While their success in the U.S. Women’s Open may seem improbable, the history at Olympic has shown anything is possible.
Who knew Coleman (pictured above) was a world beater? She made a name for herself when she beat both Brooke Henderson and Angela Stanford at the Bank of Hope LPGA Match Play. Those two upsets came on the heels of her third-place finish earlier this season at the LPGA Drive On Championship at Golden Ocala. Coleman, ranked No. 166 in the world, has proven she is unflappable against the best, a mindset that could serve her well for a possible major breakthrough.
Of the 29 amateurs in the field, none are playing better than Stanford University’s Heck, who just became the third player in college golf history to sweep conference, regional and national titles. She played her way into the field at Olympic by earning medalist honors in the sectional qualifier at Marin Country Club. Heck will be competing in her second U.S. Women’s Open, having finished T-33 in her debut in 2017 at Trump National Bedminster. She’ll be chasing history as she looks to become the second amateur to win the U.S. Women’s Open and the first since Catherine Lacoste in 1967.
For the past four seasons, Jutanugarn has posted a top-10 in a major championship every year. She’s already notched a T-10 at the ANA Inspiration, the season’s first major, and could get over the hurdle at Olympic. Jutanugarn was one of the few players under par on the weekend at December’s U.S. Women’s Open before fading on the final day to a career-best T-6. But Jutanugarn has continued to grow as a competitor and put herself in contention, week in and week out on the LPGA.
With 17 top-10s in major championships, Yang is a likely candidate for a breakthrough win. And, Yang knows what it's like to be upset in a major championship. In 2015, she played in the final group during the final round of the U.S. Women’s Open, when In Gee Chun earned her first win in the States. Yang has struggled in recent years. Her most recent run at a major title came in 2017, when she finished inside the top 10 in the first three majors of the year. Thursday, she’ll compete in her 15th U.S. Women’s Open.
With a great mindset to handle the pressures that come with competing in a major championship, Yin could be a breakout star at Olympic. With an affable attitude, combined with awe-inspiring length, Yin could own the perfect combination to contend in a major championship. She’ll make her seventh appearance at the U.S. Women’s Open appearance, where she has just once made the cut – but it was a good one, as she tied for second in 2019 at the Country Club of Charleston.