Minjee Lee keeps it steady for share of US Open lead

Doug Ferguson and Darren Walton |

Minjee Lee hits from the second tee during the second round of the US Women’s Open at Lancaster.
Minjee Lee hits from the second tee during the second round of the US Women’s Open at Lancaster.

Minjee Lee and Yuka Saso, recent champions of the strongest test of golf, set the target with a few mistakes, a few birdies and a steady diet of pars to share the clubhouse lead midway through the second round of the US Women’s Open.

Australia’s Lee, whose two majors include a Women’s Open at Pine Needles two years ago, made consecutive bogeys at the turn and then played mistake-free the rest of the way for a one-under 69 at Lancaster Country Club.

Saso, the Women’s Open champion at Olympic Club in 2021, steadied herself from a rocky start by playing bogey-free over her last 12 holes to salvage a 71.

They were one-under 139 with half of the 156-player field taking on a Lancaster course that wasn’t getting any easier in the afternoon.

Still to be determined was whether that score would hold up at the end of the second round. But it already was clear the weekend would not include Lexi Thompson in what likely is her last US Women’s Open. She had four straight bogeys around the turn and shot 75 to finish at 13-over 153.

Also packing up early was Rose Zhang, who was making a run toward giving herself a chance until missing too many par putts. She shot 72 and was 11 over par.

Most telling was Saso being asked to describe her best shot and Lee asked about the one shot she would like to have back. Both had to turn toward a scoring terminal showing their scorecards, needing to jog their memories about the rounds they had just completed.

That’s the kind of golf a Women’s Open, particularly on a traditional course like Lancaster, can generate. It’s about grinding, getting to the next hole and not doing anything to ruin a round.

Saso opened with a 68 for the 18-hole lead and got into trouble early, coming up short of the green at No.11 that sent the ball rolling back down the fairway, and then hitting into the back bunker on the par-three 12th hole that caused so many problems in the opening round.

Lee was playing in the group ahead and got going on the 12th hole. The pin was back and to the left for the second round – it had been in the front on Thursday, when Nelly Korda made 10 and 52 balls went into the water.

She hit to three feet for birdie, then rolled in a 20-footer on the next hole. She got back under par with a 12-foot birdie putt struck with confidence on No.5. Otherwise, it was all pars on her second nine, and she was fine with that.

“I love playing US Opens. I love the challenge. I love the difficulty,” Lee said.

“I just love that I really need to think about what I’m doing and be strategic.”

Lee’s Perth stablemate Hannah Green also remains in the hunt for a second major – just – after backing up a first-round 76 with a 71 to be right on the cut line at seven over.

Gabriela Ruffels, at plus nine with six holes remaining, was fighting hard to make the cut.

But fellow Australians Steph Kyriacou, at 13 over after a second-round 76, won’t be around for the weekend.

Nor will Keeley Marx, who was well down the leaderboard late in her round.

Among the biggest names to miss the cut at the season’s second major were Lydia Ko, defending champion Allisen Corpuz and likely world No.1 Nelly Korda.

With AAP

AP