Eyeing spots on Solheim, Olympic teams, Americans off to good starts at USWO

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SAN FRANCISCO – Americans bidding for spots on the U.S. Solheim Cup and Olympics teams are in the hunt early at the U.S. Women’s Open. Lexi Thompson, Angel Yin, Megan Khang, Marina Alex, Austin Ernst and Jennifer Kupcho all finished inside the top 10 after Round 1 at The Olympic Club.

Yin finished birdie-eagle to shoot 3-under 68, trailing co-leaders Mel Reid and Megha Ganne by a shot.

“It validated I’m legit,” Yin said at her Thursday press conference with laugh.

“I’m just kidding. No, it just put a lot of confidence because I didn’t make any birdies on the front nine – well, first eight holes,” Yin added as players’ “back nine” begins on the ninth hole this week out of convenience.

U.S. Women’s Open: Full-field scores | Full coverage

In 2017, Solheim Cup captain Juli Inkster named Yin, then 19, a captain’s pick, and she became the youngest player on either team. A win or high finish this week would bump Yin up in the Solheim rankings, where she is currently 17th. She says she’s not focused on what’s ahead, except her game plan for Round 2.

“The whole entire field is really tight,” said Yin, who is ranked 72nd in the world. “Everyone is good all around the world and competing here. Just got to keep my head down and keep hitting fairways and greens, make putts, all that.”

Thompson, who is currently the third-ranked American in the world and fifth in the U.S. Solheim standings, shot a solid 2-under round on Thursday.

“It’s honestly just a blessing to be out here and playing this golf course. It’s unbelievable,” said Thompson, who at 26 is making her 15th U.S. Women’s Open appearance. “I’m just looking forward to the week. I’ve just been trying to enjoy myself more and not really have golf be life or death.”

Additionally, former Augusta National Women’s Amateur champion Jennifer Kupcho is looking for a high finish to bump her ranking.

The top nine players in Solheim standings will automatically make the U.S. team and captain Pat Hurst gets three wild-card picks. The U.S. can have up to four players on its Olympics team, if all four are ranked inside the top 15 in the rankings.

Kupcho is currently 13th in the Solheim standings and 21st in the Rolex Rankings – seventh among Americans.

“I kind of just treat every tournament as the same, come out and try to play my best in all parts of my game,” said Kupcho, but that doesn’t mean she’s not thinking about the possibility to represent the United States this summer.

“Playing the Curtis Cup [in 2018] and representing the USA was the greatest experience I could have imagined,” she said. “It was so fun to come together as a team with girls that I had been competing against for so long. It would be super cool to play on Solheim or the Olympic team because it really is such a great experience to represent the red, white and blue.”