SAN MARTIN – Sung Hyun Park is trying to achieve this week what In Gee Chun accomplished last year and become just the fifth player in the history of the U.S. Women’s Open conducted by the USGA to win in their first appearance.
Friday, Park posted one of the low rounds of the day with a six-under par, 66 to move to eight-under par and take the 36-hole lead at the season’s third major. She holds a two-stroke lead ahead of first round leader Mirim Lee and Amy Yang at six-under par.
“This is the first time in a USGA tournament. And coming to the tournament, I didn't even think about winning because this is the first time for me,” Park told the media. “I would like more experience with the USGA, LPGA. But I'm trying to enjoy this tournament. That's why I am just more comfortable; don't even think about the winning, I just enjoy the play. That's why it happened today.”
When Mirim Lee teed off in the afternoon she shared the lead with Park at eight under. But she went on to have rollercoaster of a day, beginning with back-to-back bogeys on her third and fourth holes to drop out of a share of the lead. But Lee rebounded with three birdies to close out her first nine and take the outright lead at the turn at nine-under par. Then, Lee’s round took another turn, making double-bogey at the par 4, 10th hole to fall behind Park. She would finish her round with a two-over par, 74 to sit two-strokes back of the lead.
Lee shares second place with Amy Yang who had an up and down day of her own. The two-time U.S. Women’s Open runner-up climbed into a share of the lead with Lee and Park early on day two before making two bogeys in her last three holes to settle for a one-under par, 71 to finish the day at six-under par. Yang told LPGA.com her struggle was with her driver, resulting in her hitting just seven of 14 fairways on Friday.
“Yesterday I hit it, I drove it so good, so I gave myself many opportunities out there,” Yang told the media. “But today I had some trouble hitting tee shots, hitting into rough and trying to save up and down. But I finished good. I did good, yeah.”
Lydia Ko bounced back from an opening round 73 to match Park for the low round of the morning, carding a six-under par, 66 to move into a share of fourth with Haru Nomura at five-under par. The round is the lowest Ko has carded in this championship and only the second round in the 60’s in her five starts. Ko told LPGA.com the key to going low on Friday was the opportunities she was able to give herself for birdie, stringing together four-straight on her inward nine and a total of five in a six hole stretch.
“It would be one of the highest tournaments to win. Every tournament is special, but it is a major and we're -- I'm playing on the Tour that I've always dreamt of playing, and this is probably -- this is the biggest championship in the U.S. It would be a tournament that I would love to win,” Ko told the media. “It takes a lot of great golf, a lot of patience to win this championship. There's a lot of golf to be played. So I don't really want to get ahead of myself, but it's definitely up there, or at least once in my career.”
Ko is a two-time major champion who won her first major title in 2015 at the Evian Championship followed by a second consecutive major victory at the 2016 ANA Inspiration. Nomura, however, is in the hunt for her first major victory. She is already a two-time winner in 2016, playing well in the windy conditions in Australia and San Francisco to capture her first victories on Tour. Nomura was right at home in the gusty conditions Friday afternoon at CordeValle where she carded a three-under par, 69 to move to five-under par heading into the weekend.
The projected cut line is four-over par, which sends home several notables including defending champion In Gee Chun, who missed her first cut as a member of the LPGA Tour this week. Chun finished at five-over par to become the first defending champion since Birdie Kim in 2006 to miss the weekend.
Se Ri Pak also missed the cut, finishing at nine-over par for the Championship. Pak announced during her pre-tournament press conference that this week would mark her last competitive tournament in the United States. Pak became the first Korean player to win on Tour with her victory at the 1998 U.S. Women’s Open champion and ushered in a generation of players known as “Se Ri Kids.”