The U.S. Women's Open takes place this week at Saucon Valley in Bethlehem, Pa., and it always causes me to do some soul-searching. Here's what's on my mind this week.
1. The Open, which began in 1946, is the oldest championship in women's golf, predating the LPGA tour by four years, and it is the most coveted title.
2. It has had a few one-hit-wonder winners (Kathy Baker, Laurie Merten, Hilary Lunke, Birdie Kim), but by and large the Open has identified a great champion.
3. The Open has also identified those who perhaps wanted it so much that they couldn't get out of their own way: Beth Daniel, Rosie Jones, Nancy Lopez and me.
4. Mike Davis's tough-but-fair philosophy works well for the Women's Open, too, right down to the drivable par-4 and varied teeing grounds.
5. The purse has grown over the last 10 years, making it the LPGA's largest. And the criteria for exemption have been stiffened, which kept fan faves Michelle Wie (right) and Natalie Gulbis out of this year's field but is the right call for the long-term prestige of the event.
6. Sites reeking in golf history such as Cherry Hills, Interlachen and Newport have contributed to the event's aura of excellence. In keeping with that tradition, Oakmont, the Broadmoor and Pinehurst No. 2 are coming up.
7. My wish list of future sites includes Salem (that would get me to beat the rust off my clubs), Merion, Oak Hill, Pebble Beach and Pasatiempo.
8. I would trade both of my majors to be a U.S. Open champion.
Dottie Pepper is a 17-year LPGA veteran and an on-course analyst for NBC and Golf Channel.
GOLF PLUS will next appear in the July 27 SPORTS ILLUSTRATED.
ROBERT BECK (WIE)