It sounds crazy, but “is she the best and most hyped golfer since Tiger Woods?” is not actually a ridiculous question when it comes to Rose Zhang. Now, there are some receipts to prove it. Zhang enters as an 8-1 favorite to win the 2023 U.S. Women’s Open at Pebble Beach this weekend, according to Caesar’s Sportsbook.
This despite Zhang only having played two professional events.
The second-shortest odds belong to Jin Young Ko, who has 15 LPGA wins and two major championships under her belt.
To be fair to oddsmakers across the world, Rose won one of those professional events, the Mizuho Americas Open, and nearly won the other finishing T8 at the Women’s PGA Championship a few weeks ago. So, while it’s true that this is just her third professional start, it’s equally accurate to note that only seven golfers have ever beaten her in pro tournaments.
Beyond that, Rose is also the women’s course record holder at Pebble Beach after shooting a 9-under 63 in the second round of the 2022 Carmel Cup during her sophomore year at Stanford. That was the year she won eight of the 10 events she played (including that Carmel Cup), not to be confused with her freshman year when she only won four of the 10 events she played.
Add it all up, and the collegiate numbers are mind-boggling.
- Starts: 20
- Wins: 12
- Top 10s: 19
- Top 20s: 20
- Rounds at par or better: 54 of 62 (87.1%)
- Rounds in the 60s: 33 of 62 (53.2%)
- Best finish: 1st (12x)
- Two-time NCAA individual champion
- Two-time ANNIKA award winner
Zhang did everything you could possibly do in her two years in Palo Alto, California. And if you want the full comparison, she actually won one more tournament than Tiger Woods did at Stanford despite making six fewer starts.
Now, she’s set to compete in the highest-profile tournament she’s ever played — as the favorite of the most prestigious women’s event in the world at one of the most famous golf courses on the planet where she not only could win but is expected to.
So … how we feeling?
“I would have never expected myself to be in this position,” Zhang said. “Just being able to be in contention has been incredible, feeling-wise, and I feel like my game has been on par with a lot of the professionals and the veterans out here. It’s not something that I anticipated, and I have just felt like these positions have just been … in a way it has helped me to really realize that I have a lot of potential and I can become better, get better. But I’m always just someone to try to put my foot forward and improve even more.
“So, I have never really thought about results-wise how I would end up, but I assumed that the transition was going to be a lot more difficult for sure.”
It has a real “do you understand how easy this is for me” vibe to it … but in the most humble way possible.
There are plenty of other interesting narratives to pay attention to this week, including Michelle Wie West’s farewell to professional golf, Minjee Lee’s run at winning back to back U.S. Women’s Opens (she’s finished in the top five in five of her last nine majors) and how Pebble will stand up under a much different attack than when the men visited back in 2019.
However, Zhang is the main event — and everybody knows it.
“She’s got it,” said Wie West. “She’s incredibly poised and has that inner confidence, that inner silent confidence in her that is just so incredible, and she is a real competitor. I’m super excited for all the things that she’s already accomplished in her few weeks as pro and very excited to see what’s in the future for her.”
Everyone seemingly feels the same way. In the first-ever U.S. Women’s Open at this golf course, if Rose is able to joins the list of winners at Pebble that includes Tiger, Jack Nicklaus and Tom Watson, do not expect the hype train to slow down. In fact, the comparisons to that other golfer from Stanford who dominated as an amateur and went on to do pretty well as a professional as well, will only get easier.