Yuka Saso has already made her presence known on the LPGA Tour in 2021, holding the 36-hole lead in April at the LOTTE Championship before stumbling over the closing two rounds. Six weeks later, the native of the Philippines again holds a 36-hole lead, this time with a major title at stake at the U.S. Women’s Open.
Saso followed her first-round 69 with a brilliant 4-under 67 at The Olympic Club, tied for the second-lowest round of the day, with six birdies and two bogeys, and moved to the top of the leaderboard at -6 overall. Playing in temperatures that barely peaked into the 50s, Saso only hit six fairways, spending more time than she’d like in Olympic’s thick and penal rough. But she used her strength to her advantage, powering out of the tall grass with a very simple mentality.
“If I go in the rough, my mindset is just to go for the fairway,” said Saso. “It's really long and like sticky, so yeah, it's really hard to get on from it. But yeah, I'm glad that I'm a little bit good out of it.”
Once Saso finds the green, she’s been one of the strongest putters this week, hitting 66.6% greens in regulation and tied for second with 53 total putts.
With a win, Saso would become the 31st player to win an LPGA Tour title as a non-Member. It would also mark the third consecutive year with a non-Member taking a major title, following A Lim Kim (2020 U.S. Women’s Open), Sophia Popov (2020 AIG Women’s Open) and Hinako Shibuno (2019 AIG Women’s Open).
2019 U.S. Women’s Open champion Jeongeun Lee6 carded a late flurry of birdies at 15, 16 and 17 to earn solo second at -5. She’s followed by sixth-year LPGA Tour player Megan Khang and amateur Megha Ganne in a tie for third at -4. Ganne, a 17-year-old Stanford commit who was tied for the lead after 18 holes, carded an even-par 71 on Friday and is reveling in her new-found spotlight, even getting a Twitter shoutout from the governor of her native New Jersey.
“I wish every event I had a gallery watching me because it just makes me play better, I think,” said Ganne. “And I love being in the spotlight, so it's been really fun.”
With a second-round 69, Inbee Park set the championship record for the most sub-par rounds with 25. She had previously been tied for first with two other greats of the game in Beth Danieland Betsy King. Park moves to the weekend at -2 overall, tied for seventh with fellow major champions Lexi Thompson and Ariya Jutanguarn.
“There aren't that many holes that I can actually make a birdie on this golf course,” said Park, who won the U.S. Women’s Open in 2008 and 2013. “I really tried to take advantage of the par-5s when I hit the short irons, which I did.”
The cut came at +6, with 66 players advancing to weekend competition. 2020 U.S. Women’s Open champion A Lim Kim finished at +7 and became the first defending champion to miss the cut since Sung Hyun Park in 2018.
Other notables who did not reach the weekend include U.S. Women’s Open champions Park (+8), Paula Creamer (+9), Brittany Lang (+9), Cristie Kerr (+10) and Michelle Wie West (+12), as well as AIG Women’s Open winners Hinako Shibuno (+7) and Sophia Popov (+8). Nelly Korda shot +11 to head home early, while her sister Jessica Korda advanced to the final two rounds at +4, tied for 36th.