Yuka Saso- photo USGA

Lydia Ko, Minjee Lee and Hannah Green are, perhaps predictably, the only three  Australasians to make the weekend at the US Women’s Open at Olympic Club near San Francisco, the Ko and Lee finishing their opening 36 holes at 4 over par and one shot inside the cutline while Green was right on the required number.

Ko struggled to a round of 75 and after being just one off the lead during her opening round on Thursday it has been a disappointing last 23 holes for the New Zealander having dropped seven shots in that time but a good weekend is not beyond her.

Brisbane raised amateur Emily Mahar and Queensland’s Sarah Jane Smith finished at 10 over par, New Zealand amateur Amelia Garvey at 11 over, in her first appearance as a professional, and Sarah Kemp at 15 over.

Lee was round in 73 today and both she and Ko are in 36th place and ten shots from the lead set by Filipino Yuka Saso who is the only player to record consecutive rounds in the 60’s thus far and finds herself one shot ahead of 2019 US Women’s Open champion, Jeongeun Lee.

Lee echoed the feeling of most when she described the conditions. “It was cold today. Oh, my goodness. But the wind didn’t pick up like the forecast said it was, so that was nice.

“The greens were definitely softer, holding a little bit. Overall, again, it played tough, but if you were in the fairway it was scorable. Kind of bummed I didn’t capitalize on a few more opportunities.”

Still only 19 years  of age, leader Saso is playing her third US Open and finished a very respectable 13th in 2020 after being very much in the hunt through 36 holes.

Ten birdies and just four bogeys represent a splendid opening 36 holes for the leader who plays most of her golf on the Japan Golf Tour where she won two events in 2020.

Born in the Philippines but raised since the age of 4 in Japan, Saso had originally intended to play collegiate golf in the US but she has been professional now for nearly two years and making a considerable success of it.

Two years ago, she advanced to the semifinals of the U.S. Girls’ Junior, then passed up a scholarship offer from the University of Georgia to turn professional. Since then, Saso, a semifinalist in the 2016 U.S. Women’s Amateur, has captured two events on the LPGA Tour of Japan and has risen to 40th in the Rolex World Rankings.

She described the benefit of being in contention in the early stages of last year’s US Open and how that has impacted on her approach this week.

“Last year’s U.S. Open? Last year it was very cold and I wasn’t really expecting to play that good. It was really a good experience. For all the tournaments that I’m joining before here, at Olympic, I really had a good experience and trying to be patient. I think that helps.”

Joint first round leader, 17 year old Megha Ganne, did well to record a round of even par today, the 17 year old no doubt excited about what lies ahead over the weekend as she anticipates the spotlight being on her even more.

Ganne is tied for third place with Megan Khang with another shot back to China’s Shanshan Feng.

“Yeah, I think what I learned at the ANWA and a couple other events is obviously when you have your “A” game it’s really easy to make putts and hit good shots,” said Ganne. “But it’s when you don’t have that and you’re still able to salvage and not compound mistakes, that’s what separates the pros from the amateurs I think a lot of the time.

“That’s kind of what I’ve been trying to do. A little bit on the front nine I saw that today. I wasn’t really in the spots I wanted to be, so I just remember that I know how to make up-and-downs, so kept that in mind.”

Eleven players are under par at the completion of 36 holes with another four at even par, and given the nature of this golf course all can be considered chances to claim the title over the weekend.

SCORES

Minjee Lee – the best of the Australians at present – photo USGA