BIRMINGHAM, Ala - When it rains, it pours and this week at the U.S. Women’s Open it’s been pouring daily. After nearly an inch of rain Friday night, driving the total since Monday to almost five inches, the weather-delayed second round resumed Saturday morning on a soggy Shoal Creek an hour later than planned. And when the dust settled – ah, if only there were dust – Sarah Jane Smith was still atop the leader board at 10-under par 134, but a new face was in second place.
Ariya Jutanugarn was among those back at it at 7:45 a.m., a time when Smith was likely still lounging on the lead in her hotel room while half the field was finishing the second round. Of those who completed 36 holes by Friday, Su Oh was in second place at six under par, four strokes behind Smith. But Jutanugarn, who was at six under par when she resumed play on No. 9, birdied Nos. 10 and 11 as she ended 36 holes at 7-under-par 137, three strokes behind Smith.
“It was a little bit wet, but not too bad,” Jutanugarn said after finishing her second round. “The greens are in great shape.” Ariya, who was up at 4 a.m. for the restart, said she’d get some rest before the third round started. “I’m not really thinking about my position, I’m, thinking about my game and committing to my shots,” she said.
The third round, which resumed 30 minutes after the cut was made at 4-over par and reduced the field to 63 players, will be played in threesomes off both No. 1 and No. 10 tee with Smith, Jutanugarn and Oh in the final group off No. 1.
There was a knot of eight players tied for fourth place at 141 including, two-time U.S. Women’s Open winner Inbee Park, 2014 champ Michelle Wie, Chella Choi, Jenny Shin, Sei Young Kim, Carlota Ciganda, Jihyun Kim and 18-year-old amateur Linn Grant from Sweden. Lexi Thompson resumed play on No. 8 Saturday morning at 1-under par but slipped back to 2-over par.
The low number of players who made the cut makes it possible the tournament could be back on schedule by the end of Saturday – weather permitting, although the story of the week has pretty much been that such a permit has been denied.
Still, the field of 156 has been whittled down to well under half that making it quite likely someone will be holding the U.S. Women’s Open trophy Sunday evening in what will be a celebration of not just great skill but also enormous perseverance and resilience, truly the qualities of a deserving champion.