BEDMINSTER _ The fans would like nothing more than for Brittany Lang to be clutching the trophy once again when the 2017 U.S. Women's Open Championship concludes.
With nearly every step Lang has taken on the Old Course at Trump National, someone wishes the defending champion well and mentions the prospect of a repeat.
"I think on the first tee I will be a little bit nervous but it's been cool," said the 31-year-old Lang. "It's been special walking down the fairways and having people say 'Let's do it again, Brittany.' It's really special. The fans have made me feel that way. I think it will be pretty similar (to last year). I definitely have a lot of confidence."
Not only did Lang boost her confidence, she gained respect by capturing her first major in a three-hole playoff against Anna Nordqvist at CordeValle Golf Clubin San Martin, Calif. The victory was the second of her career.
"People take you more seriously being a major champion," she said during a press conference on Wednesday, July 12. "It's one thing to win an LPGA tournament or professional tournament but it's another thing to be called a major champion... The one thing it does is give you confidence even if you aren't having good finishes. You know when you get in a situation like that you can get it done and handle the pressure. That's a positive thing as a professional. You know you can get it done when it matters."
Much is at stake this over the next four days. The purse this year is $5 million, $500,000 more than in 2016. Lang, of McKinney, Tex., received $810,000 for topping the field last summer.
Claiming back-to-back Open titles would bring much prestige. Since 1991, only two players - Annika Sorenstam and Karrie Webb - have achieved the feat.
Lang had a four-round total of 282, including two 68s, at CordeValle. She's had a rough go of it in 2017, missing the cut in two of the last three tournaments. Her best finish this year was 13th at the Volunteers of America Texas Shootout in late April. Still, Lang feels she is playing well and will contend.
"I've been hitting the ball so, so well for the last few months and really haven't had any great finishes," Lang said. "It's been a little frustrating. I'm going to try and stay patient. I always seem to play well at U.S. Opens. If you are hitting the ball well, and I'm hitting it long right now, you should have a good chance at the U.S. Open. I will be nervous and excited on the first tee tomorrow."
Lang is paired with In Gee Chun and amateur Eun Jeong Seong, both of Korea, in the opening round on Thursday, July 13. They'll start out on the 10th hole at 7:40 a.m.
Cristie Kerr, the 2007 U.S. Women's Open champion, noted that the 6,732-yard course is long and "has plenty of rough." She considered the greens fast and "massive."
"It's going to be a mental grind out there," Kerr said. "You're going to have to manage yourself in between shots because it's very demanding on every shot, especially the up and down around the greens."
Kerr enters the Open following a fifth-place finish at the Thornberry Creek LPGA Classic. Five times this year, she was in the top seven and topped the field at the LOTTE Championship in April.
***Please note: Photo is courtesy of www.USGA.org.