Back-nine birdie streak gives Yang Women’s Open lead

Amy Yang waves after making a birdie on the 11th hole. It was her first of four consecutive birdies. Photo courtesy www.usga.org. Copyright USGA/Fred Vuich
Amy Yang waves after making a birdie on the 11th hole. It was her first of four consecutive birdies. Photo courtesy www.usga.org. Copyright USGA/Fred Vuich

Amy Yang is no stranger to playing well in the U.S. Women’s Open however halfway through the 2015 edition, she finds herself in first place at 7-under par.

Yang has three top-five finishes in the U.S. Women’s Open and last year played in the final pairing with Michelle Wie.

“I have experience playing in┬ácontention at the U.S. Open,” Yang said. “I know the kind of pressure that is and I think I can handle that now.”

Yang got her round going on the back-nine after recording a bogey on the night hole. She converted birdies on holes 11-14 to get to 7-under par, which is where she stayed through the remainder of the round.

“I just felt good over the ball and seeing my ball rolling to the hole,” said Yang. “I don’t know, it just felt so comfortable and happened so fast.”

Yang is ranked 15th in the Rolex Rankings, and earlier this season won the Honda LPGA Thailand. She also has four top-10 finishes including a tie for ninth place at the Walmart NW Arkansas Championship Presented By P&G in her last start. Through two rounds, Yang is tied for 20th in fairways hit [20], tied for 11th in greens-in-regulation [28], third in putts [57], first in birdies [12], and 52nd in average driving distance [243.8]. Her total score of 133 is the second-lowest 36 hole score.

She will have some very stiff competition however led by Stacy Lewis, a two-time major champion who finished runner-up in the U.S. Women’s Open last year and tied for third in 2008. Lewis has 13 wins on the LPGA Tour however has not had one since June 29 of last year. She finished at 4-under par, three shots behind the lead.

Lewis faced a challenge early in her round recording bogey on the 14th hole [she started on the back nine] to drop to even par. She would respond after that reaching 5-under on the sixth hole before a bogey on nine placed her three strokes behind.

“I just started hitting the iron shots in better places where I was having the uphill putts versus the downhill sliders,” said Lewis. “That’s really the best thing about my game right now is that I have the control of the irons to hit it on the uphill side or downhill side. I haven’t had that control the last few weeks. So I kept at it. I didn’t let the three-putt on 14 get to me.”

Lewis put on a ball striking clinic hitting all 14 fairways and 16 of 18 greens.

“I like the way I played today,” Lewis said. “I definitely actually could have been a couple more lower if I made a few putts. I was just happy with the way the ball striking today. You have to hit fairways on this golf course and that’s what I’ve done so far. Being in the final group, that’s where you want to be.”

Shiho Oyama is tied for second place with Lewis and matched Yang with a 66. Oyama was at 2-over par on the 13th hole, her fourth of the day, but in her first LPGA start of the season, she shot 31 on holes 1-through-9.

Oyama won the 2013 LPGA Tour Championship Ricoh Cup and her other top-10 finish came in 2009 where she placed sixth at the Michelob Ultra Open. In 30 career starts on the LPGA Tour, Oyama has made 17 cuts. She also was tied for second after firing an opening round 69 in 2007.

Oyama discussed having an injury and surgery six years ago. She could not play golf for a year, however now she has confidence not just in herself, but in her game.

“I came back to this tournament, U.S. Open, I’m so happy to come back, and I’m so happy for everyone supporting me and helping me, so I’m so lucky to come back,” said Oyama. “I’m so excited.”

Greens draw conversation: After Inbee Park discussed that in order to navigate the greens you had to smash the putts, various players were asked to offer their opinions on the greens.

Michelle Wie, who finished at even par finished her round visibly frustrated with the greens but was able to recollect herself when she was asked the question.

“Despite all the rain we got yesterday, they were in good condition,” said Wie. “It felt pretty good today. Obviously in the afternoon the grass does grow a little bit more. But it’s slopey, as it is.”

Morgan Pressel discussed her experience on 16 green with Mirim Lee and Yang.

“Three of us had uphill putts on 16 and none of us got it within a foot and a half, we all left it,” Pressel said. “That’s not just a little bit short, that’s a lot short. And 17 the same. You know you have to hit it firmly to get it there, and it still comes up short. So it doesn’t matter how many times you tell yourself to give it a good whack, it still came up short. So I was a little frustrated with that on 17.”

Of note: Laura Davies has accomplished a lot in her LPGA Tour career, and at age 51 will make the cut in this major tournament after posting a +2 total through two rounds.

Now however, she will face some pressure, not from the tournament but from her flights and ensuring she gets to Monday’s World Golf Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony. Davies will fly from Philadelphia to London and then use a connecting flight to Edinburgh. She then will drive to her hotel in Dundee and then will bus to the University of St. Andrews which is located just blocks from the infamous Old Course.

Just in case something goes wrong with travel or if she makes a playoff, she taped a message that would be played at the ceremony.

“I hope I make it, but first and foremost, I want to do well at the U.S. Open before I worry about the next bit,” said Davies.

The remainder of golfers in the top-10 are Marina Alex [-3], Inbee Park [-2], Jane Park [-2], Rumi Yoshiba [-2], Pressel [-2], In Gee Chun [-2] and Karrie Webb [-2].

The final cut was +4 and anyone with a higher score ended up not making the weekend. There were 18 total rounds under par in the second round and two came from golfers who missed the cut…Megan Khang earned low amateur honors making the cut at +1. She is tied for 20th place…. Tee times start at 8:24 with Haruka Morita Wanyaolu playing by herself and end at 2:05 with Lewis and Yang… Haeji Kang withdrew prior to the second round citing back injury… The ninth hole ranked the toughest of the day averaging half a stroke over par. There were six birdies, 71 pars, 72 bogeys, four double bogeys and one golfer fared worse than double bogey. The hole is averaging .422 over par for the tournament which makes the ninth hole the toughest all tournament as well… 59.4 percent of golfers hit the fifth fairway, the lowest success rate of any non par-3 hole and 36.8 percent have hit the ninth green in regulation also the lowest.

Author: Zac Weiss

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