By: USGA Media
Mamiko Higa of Japan, who shot a 6-under-par 65 in her first-ever U.S. Women’s Open round on Thursday, rallied with birdies on three of her last six holes on Friday to post an even-par 71 and maintain a one-stroke lead in the weather-delayed Round 2 of the 74th U.S. Women’s Open at the Country Club of Charleston.
The round was suspended for nearly two hours in the late afternoon by thunderstorms, and when play was halted for the day at 8:24 p.m., Higa led Jessica Korda by one stroke. Korda, 26, put together rounds of 69-68 to sit at 5-under 137. Amateur Gina Kim, 19, of Chapel Hill, N.C., shot 1-over 72 on Friday for a 4-under total of 138 and sits in solo third among completed players, although Celine Boutier, 25, of France, was also at 4 under with four holes left to play in Round 2.
“After I finished last night I didn’t feel that much pressure,” said Higa, 25, whose best previous finish in a major is a tie for fourth at last year’s Women’s British Open. “I wasn’t nervous. I was really happy because I was able to finish up a tough day with a birdie.”
Kim, 19, a rising sophomore at Duke University who helped the Blue Devils win the NCAA team title two weeks ago, matched the second-lowest 36-hole total for an amateur in Women’s Open history. Grace Park (total of 137 in 1999) was one stroke better and Hye-Jin Choi also shot 138 for 36 holes in 2017 on the way to a solo runner-up finish to Sung Hyun Park. Kim cited her ball-striking as the key to her performance.
“I think that’s been one of my biggest strengths these days,” said Kim. “I’ve definitely made birdies because I’ve stuck it very close. I’m feeling really good about where I am right now. Clearly, my scores are doing well, and so hopefully I can keep that going for the rest of the weekend.”
Boutier missed the cut in her only two previous Women’s Open starts, in 2014 and 2015, while she was playing at Duke. Like Kim, Boutier helped Duke win the NCAAs, in 2014, and she earned her first professional victory in the ISPS Handa Vic Open in January.
Jeongeun Lee6 of the Republic of Korea and Jaye Marie Green were both at 3-under 139 through 36 holes, while Lexi Thompson and Nelly Korda, Jessica’s younger sister, were also at 3 under but with two and three holes left to play, respectively.
Higa’s score on Thursday was the lowest ever for a player in their Women’s Open debut. Higa, who is married to professional sumo wrestler Ikioi Shota, is a two-time Japan Women’s Amateur champion who has won five times on the LPGA of Japan Tour since turning professional in 2012.
Four amateurs, most recently Carol Semple Thompson in 1978, have led or shared the lead through two rounds of the Women’s Open. Choi is the most recent of the three who have held at least a share of second.
Play was halted for 1 hour, 58 minutes in the late afternoon, beginning at 4:47 p.m. Play was suspended for the day at 8:24 p.m., with 45 players left to complete their rounds on Saturday morning, starting at 7:15 a.m.
•There have been six instances since 1990 when a player led outright in the U.S. Women’s Open after 36 holes, and none of them went on to win: Pat Bradley in 1991, Helen Alfredsson in 1994, Meg Mallon in 2000, Mhairi McKay in 2003, Angela Park in 2007 and Shanshan Feng in 2017.
•None of the last 15 defending champions has opened with a round in the 60s. 2018 champion Ariya Jutanugarn of Thailand opened with a 1-over 72 on Thursday. The last defending champion to open with a round in the 60s was Juli Inkster, who shot 69 in 2003.
•Before Higa, the last time a player from Japan led or co-led after any Women’s Open round was in 2011, when Mika Miyazato led through 36 holes. She went on to finish fifth.
•36-hole leaders or co-leaders of the Women’s Open since 2000 have gone on to win 29 percent of the time.
•Today in 2001, Karrie Webb opened her U.S. Women’s Open title defense with a round of 70; she would go on to win by eight shots at Pine Needles Lodge & Golf Club.
“My attitude wasn’t the best the last few years. I’ve been working on it a little bit, and it makes a huge difference. I know that the calmer I am, the better I’m going to play. There is no point in getting upset because it’s just not going to help at all.” – Azahara Munoz of Spain, who is tied for ninth through 36 holes.
“As much as I was tired, this is definitely a new experience for me. So I actually had a hard time falling asleep. So I just had to do a little bit of stretching and then just take a Benadryl and then go to bed.” – Gina Kim, 19, on her inability to sleep after opening with a round of 66 on Thursday
“I had a pretty rough day out there, couldn’t really get any birdies to fall, had a couple of lip-outs. That’s golf, unfortunately. Obviously, I’ve been struggling this year. I feel like my game is there. It’s just not clicking all the way.” – Emma Talley, who won the 2013 U.S. Women’s Amateur at Country Club of Charleston but shot 70-77 and will miss the cut.
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