U.S. Open preview: Michelle Wie West says goodbye for now

Michelle Wie West will be stepping back from the LPGA Tour after the U.S. Open. (Andrew Redington/Getty Images)

The U.S. Women’s Open begins Thursday at the Pine Needles Lodge and Golf Club in Southern Pines, N.C., with competitors looking to take home a piece of the $10 million purse. Just Women’s Sports has some storylines to follow as the tournament gets underway.

The end of the road (for now) for Michelle Wie West

Michelle Wie West announced last week that the U.S. Open would be her last for a while. After 22 years at the top of the golf world, Wie West is ready to step away from competitive golf.

She says she does plan to enter the 2023 U.S. Women’s Open at Pebble Beach. But while the five-time LPGA winner concedes she could change her mind, she also has been contemplating this break for a while.

“It’s been an amazing journey, and I’m very excited for what happens next,” she said Tuesday. “I have zero regrets in my career. There’s always that inkling of wishing I had done more. But no one is ever going to be 100 percent satisfied.

“I have definitely had an up-and-down career, but I’m extremely proud for the resiliency that I’ve shown. I’m extremely proud to have achieved the two biggest dreams that I’ve had — one being graduating from Stanford, and the other winning the U.S. Open.”

The return of Nelly Korda

According to Nelly Korda, her plan was not to return to competitive golf at the U.S. Open. But after undergoing surgery for a blot clot in her left arm, the journey back to 100 percent has landed her at the year’s second major.

Still the second-ranked player in the world, Korda is managing her expectations knowing that it’s been a few months since she’s played at a high level.

“I’m not expecting too much,” she said. “Girls are already in the middle of their season, they have a lot of rounds under their belts.

“I just missed it so much. As I got closer to this week, I started hitting it a little longer. I think the juices started flowing a little bit more, but I’m so happy to be out here against everyone.”

Making history

While the winner of this year’s tournament will take home nearly $2 million in prize money – a significant increase from last year – many of the game’s top golfers aren’t looking at the money as the be-all-end-all. Instead, it’s about the history they’ll make.

“I don’t care about money because these are majors,” world No. 1 Jin Young Ko told GolfChannel.com. “I don’t need to make more money, I want my name on the U.S. Open trophy, and I want history.”

Still, the money certainly marks a step in the right direction for equality in the sport of golf.

“At the end of the day, yes, the more zeros are better, but we’re all professional athletes and trying to play well in what we do and just having a good time out there,” Lydia Ko said. “And to be able to play for more money doing that is a bonus.”

The first golfers will tee off at 7 a.m. ET Thursday to start the first round. The first round will air on USA Network starting at 3 p.m. ET Thursday.