Thompson takes a long time over her chip. She steps away from it a couple of times, clearly in two minds. Unsettled, it’s no huge surprise when she chunks it. Time to regroup, because things can unravel quickly around the Olympic Club. Big putt from the fringe, in more ways than one, coming up. Meanwhile the first-round leader Mel Reid is in with her second 78 of the weekend, and finishes the week at +12.
It’s not the greatest of lies. Thompson hacks out hard, but she can’t get the ball to the green. She’s a good 30 yards short. A big up-and-down attempt coming up.
Feng launches a 5-iron straight at the flag on 11. That’s a fine shot, and she’ll get a look at birdie from ten feet. She doesn’t make the putt, though, the ball breaking off to the left on its last turn, and the chance to reduce the lead to three is gone. Back on the tee, Thompson pulls her drive into the thick stuff down the left. A slight look of concern washes across her face as she imagines the lie.
Thompson misreads the line, the ball breaking well left, but pace is her friend. Perfectly judged, and she’s left with a two-footer to tidy up. Which she does, without fear or fuss. For a player who has often succumbed to nerves from short distances, she’s holding herself together wonderfully. There doesn’t seem a chink in her armour this week, though the back nine at a major is different terrain.
A three-putt bogey for Khang on 11. Her putter’s let her down again, for the second time in three holes. She’s -2. Meanwhile a minor mistake by the leader on 10, as Thompson leaves a wedge short of the green from 70 yards. She’s left with a 30-foot putt across a ridge.
A long birdie putt for Feng on 10 comes up short. Par. She’s -4. Up on 11, Yin sends an arrow straight at the flag and leaves herself a six-foot look for birdie. But she sends a fidgety effort to the right, and that’s a huge chance to grab a share of second spurned.
Thompson sends her second at 9 to ten feet, then looks to have made the birdie putt. The ball inexplicably stays up, teetering on the right-hand edge of the cup. You’d expect it to topple, but it’s not cooperating, and she’s forced to tap in for par. Still, she’s out in 34, which compares favourably to her partners Saso (38) and Ganne (41). Thompson remains four in front at -8.
Nasa Hataoka rattles in a right-to-left 20-footer on 9, and that’s her second birdie in three holes. She’s back to -2. She’s going round with Shanshan Feng, who has now grabbed second spot all for herself after sending her approach to four feet and tidying up for birdie. Back down the hole, Thompson splits the fairway with a booming 3-wood. And up on 10, Khang sends her second pin high to eight feet, and knocks in the birdie putt. It only just drops, mind. That needed every single joule of energy. She smiles at her caddy and mimes a heart flutter. Khang is great value.
-8: Thompson (8)
-4: Feng (9)
-3: Yin (10), Khang (10), Saso (8)
-2: Hataoka (9)
-1: Lee6 (9)
Saso chips delicately to a couple of feet. What an up and down! The 19-year-old Filipino has responded excellently to those back-to-back doubles early in her round. For a while it looked as though her head was spinning, but she’s showing real moxie here. Thompson meanwhile leaves her long birdie putt four feet short, and here comes the first test for a player whose flat stick has misbehaved in the past. No problem! In it goes. The gap’s still five.
With shots in hand, Lexi can afford to play smart. Saso has to go for the pin at the par-three 8th. It’s tucked away front left, and though she sends it close, her ball bounds into the rough. Shortsided and in the thick stuff, that’ll be one heck of a chip to face. Thompson responds by aiming for the middle of the green. No point looking for trouble.
Another birdie for Angel Yin! She steers a right-to-left slider into the cup at 9 from 20 feet, and hits the turn in 31. She grabs a share of second with Feng and Saso at -3. They all should be joined by Yin’s playing partner Megan Khang, but the young Californian pulls a short birdie effort and admonishes herself in the theatrical style.
Thompson, at the back of 7 in regulation, cradles her long birdie putt to kick-in distance. No need to race heroically at the hole with a five-shot advantage over Feng … and Saso, who begins to repair all that early damage by draining a 25-footer for her first birdie of the day.
-8: Thompson (7)
-3: Feng (7), Saso (7)
-2: Yin (8), Khang (8)
An up-and-down few minutes for the penultimate group. Nasa Hataoka bounces back from double bogey on 6 with birdie at 7. She’s -1, as is Jeongeun Lee6, whose putter has proved problematic all week; three putts on 7 and the 2019 winner is heading in the wrong direction today, two over for her round. The third member of the group, Shanshan Feng, pars both holes in her usual steady style, though nearly drained a long birdie effort on 7. She remains five off at -3.
Brooke Henderson is having a good day. Birdies at 5 and now 8 have brought her up to level par for the tournament. How the 2016 PGA champion will rue that inexplicable second round of 78. She’s been on top of her game otherwise, posting 68 on Thursday and 69 yesterday. Meanwhile back on 6, pars for Thompson (-8), Ganne (+2) and Saso (-2).
Angel Yin already has a second-place finish at the US Open to her name. The 22-year-old from LA came in behind Jeongeun Lee6 at Charleston in 2019, and she’s bothering the top end of the leaderboard again. Having birdied 1, she sends her second at the short par-four 7th into thick rough down the left. No bother! Out comes the wedge, and she flips onto the green, her ball rattling into the cup at a very satisfying velocity. She joins the group tied for third at -2.
A huge smile plays across Thompson’s face as she reacts to that sensational shot. She’s really enjoying herself this week, explaining that she’s been trying to rein in the intensity, to the point of her being more than happy to stop and sign autographs during her round. In goes the birdie putt, and she’s in total control of this US Open right now. Nothing’s over yet, mind you, as the experience of Arnold Palmer, who lost a seven-stroke lead here on the back nine to Billy Casper in the 1966 men’s version, will amply illustrate.
-8: Thompson (5)
-3: Feng (5)
-2: Khang (6), Hataoka (5), Lee6 (5), Saso (5)
One of the shots of the week by Lexi Thompson! She’s out of position down the left of 5, in thick rough, a low-hanging branch in the road. She whips out, sending the ball wide right before drawing it back into the front of the green. It bumbles up to a couple of feet, one of those lovely, serene, inevitable golfing journeys. She’ll have that to go five clear of Shanshan Feng.
Another wild drive by Ganne, and she’s forced to pitch out sideways from behind a tree at 5. A little backwards, in fact. She had no other shot. Having found the fairway, she arrows her third at the flag, but the ball takes one bounce into thick greenside rough and disappears. One yard longer, and that would have been very close. She holds her head in her hands. It’s all good experience from the university of life, before she goes to actual university at Stanford.
Lee6 gets up and down from distance at 5 to limit the damage to bogey. A lovely sand wedge in from 80 yards to ten feet. Her second spot is taken by Shanshan Feng, who has been going along very steadily: 15 pars yesterday, four to start today, and now birdie at 5. Pars all round at 4 in the final group. These are the only players now under par for this tournament:
-7: Thompson (4)
-3: Feng (5)
-2: Khang (5), Hataoka (5), Lee6 (5), Saso (4)
To illustrate how difficult the Lake Course is playing today, only 12 players from a field of 66 are in red figures for their round. Only two of that dozen are more than one shot to the good: Celine Herbin (through 7, +1 overall) and last year’s joint runner-up Amy Olsen (through 6, level par overall). This will be Herbin’s best performance in a major by far; the 38-year-old from France’s previous best is a tie for 46th at the PGA.
Lee6, currently No2, hooks her tee shot at 5 into big trouble. The thickest rough, from which she barely advances her ball an inch. Take two finds the fairway. Bogey will be a good score from here. Back on 4, Thompson splits the fairway, then arrows her second to 12 feet. She’ll have a great look at birdie, and everything is falling into place for the 2014 Dinah Shore champion here.
Megan Khang would be an extremely popular winner. When it was all turning to dust on the back nine yesterday, she battled on with a smile, and that birdie / scrambled par finish, both holes celebrated in carefree style, might stand her in good stead. That’s because, having bogeyed 2, she’s gone on to birdie 3 and now 5, rolling in from 30 feet, to join the group at -2.
A huge putt here for Thompson, who gently strokes her 12-footer into the cup to scramble par. All of a sudden, she’s got a four-stroke lead … over Lee6. Saso makes it back-to-back doubles after pushing her bogey putt wide right. Par for Ganne, stopping the rot to great acclaim.
-7: Thompson (3)
-3: Lee6 (4)
-2: Hataoka (4), Feng (4), Saso (3)
Thompson chips her second straight at the flag, but it’s not firm enough and she’s left with a 12-footer for par. Saso’s stuttering start continues as she blasts high out of the sand, but a good 25-feet past the hole. She leaves the long par putt five feet short, too. Ganne meanwhile hangs around patiently as the pair go about their business, having settled herself with a lovely tee shot over the flag to six feet.
“That was so bad.” Thompson reacts to her 8-iron into the par-three 3rd, which she hits heavy, her ball ending way short of the green and to the right. She’s not in quite so much trouble as Saso, who dunks her effort into a deep bunker. The leading pair are dragging each other down at the minute. It’s not easy closing out a major championship, is it.
Saso’s chip into 2, her fourth, isn’t all that, leaving a 30-foot putt for bogey. She very nearly rolls it in, but the ball sticks on the lip. A double. Ganne’s third from the fringe rolls 12 feet past, and results in a bogey. A double bogey, bogey start for the 17-year-old amateur. The crowd fall sadly silent as their young hero slips to level par. Thompson also drops a stroke, failing to get up and down from the front, her saver stopping a dimple short, just like Ganne’s.
-7: Thompson (2)
-4: Saso (2)
-3: Lee6 (3)
-2: Hataoka (3), Feng (3)
-1: Stark (4), Khang (4)
E: Olson (5), Yin (4), Ganne (2)
While the 2nd takes chunks out of the final group, the Swedish amateur Maja Stark rolls in a 15-footer on 4 for another birdie. She’s -1. Then back on 3, Lee6 bounces back from bogey by snaking in a monster putt from off the front of 4. That’s a real momentum shifter! She’s back to -3, and may find herself even closer to the leaders in a couple of minutes’ time.
Lexi, in the rough on the other side of the hole, follows Ganne in sending a chaser towards the front of the green. It’s about all either player could do. Finally it’s the turn of Saso, who appears to be in about 22 minds about what to do. She eventually hacks through the thick nonsense, but only manages to advance her ball 50 yards or so, still in the deep rough. She can only hack back out to the fairway, and will need to get up and down from 50 yards for bogey.
Saso’s ball is snagged in all sorts of Olympic-standard filth. Halfway up a bank, too. She’s got to decide whether to take her medicine and chip out sideways, or just go for the green with one big gouge. She’s got the power, it might be worth going for it, given there’s no certainty in the sensible option either. A big moment coming up, early doors. She’d take bogey now, if offered, you’d imagine. Ganne meanwhile only just missed the fairway with her drive, but the rough is so lush, she does extremely well to chase her ball up to the fringe.
That wasn’t a great putt by Thompson, in truth. A bit off the toe, the ball squirting a couple of crucial millimetres to the right. She sends her drive at 2 into the first cut down the left. Not ideal, but nowhere near as bad as Saso, who sends a huge slice miles right. By all accounts she’s modelled her swing on Rory McIlroy, whose recent major-championship travails open up a world of comedic possibility here. Up on the green, it’s a three-putt bogey for Lee6.
Thompson tickles her putt up to the lip, but it stubbornly refuses to drop. No matter, that’s an opening birdie and she’s extended her lead over Saso, who does well to get up and down from the back. Ganne can’t manage it, though, and it’s a double-bogey seven. A nightmare start for the young amateur, who flings her putter onto her bag in her first show of frustration all week.
-8: Thompson (1)
-6: Saso (1)
-3: Lee6 (1)
-2: Hataoka (1), Feng (1)
-1: Ganne (1)
Saso lays up at 1, only to send her wedge over the back of the green. Ganne – who doesn’t hang about, playing at the sort of speed that would make Brooks look like Bryson – clips what seems a perfectly judged fourth towards the flag, but it keeps on rolling and topples off alongside Saso. “Aw come on!” shouts someone in the crowd. The gallery has had her back all week, and they’re not about to abandon the effervescent amateur now.
Ganne has been ice-cool all week, but the nerves may have finally caught up with her. She’s forced to take her medicine and chip back out onto the 1st fairway, then slices her third into the gallery down the right. It’s a complete contrast to the way Thompson is playing the hole: she takes advantage of her big drive by lashing a long iron straight at the flag, the ball rolling serenely to ten feet or so, setting up an eagle chance. As statements of intent go, that’s a doozy. The putter often goes cold on Thompson; if she makes this, she might decide that it’s going to be her day.
Birdie for Nasa Hataoka on the 1st. Pars for Shanshan Feng and Jeongeun Lee6, the latter knocking in a six-foot saver that should give her succour after yesterday’s putting woes. The flat stick has been letting the 2019 winner down this week.
Here comes the marquee grouping! The 17-year-old amateur Megha Ganne is up first. A slightly nervous smile turns into a broad one as the gallery welcome her with a huge cheer. She was a bit wayward off the tee yesterday, and that continues here as she sends her drive well right. Yuka Saso is up next. She was also all over the shop with the big stick yesterday, but her first drive splits the fairway. Finally it’s the leader Lexi Thompson. She’s not won on Tour for nearly two years, so some nerves would be understandable, but she obliterates one down the track. That’s gone miles. Everyone’s out, then. This is on!
Megan Khang needs a fast start today. She was right up there yesterday afternoon, until four consecutive bogeys between 13 and 16 sent her crashing down the leaderboard. Her spirit didn’t break, though, and she celebrated birdie at 17 with a smile and an ironic celebration, then did the same, with added laughter, upon draining a par saver on the last. The only way to respond to a nightmare back nine, as she came home in 40. She immediately sets up a straight 15-foot birdie chance this morning, but pulls it wide left. So much for springing out of the blocks. She remains at -1.
In just about any other year – one without the sensational antics of Megha Ganne – we’d all be talking about Maja Stark. The 21-year-old amateur from Sweden has been hovering on the periphery this week, posting rounds of 71, 70 and 73. She’s birdied 1 this morning, too, and currently stands at level par for the tournament. As things stand, she’s tied for eighth place. Normally this is nosebleed territory for an amateur, but Stark has been there, done that: she tied for 13th on debut last year.
Before the leading contenders take to the stage, word of the first-round leader Mel Reid. A 67 on Thursday sparked talk of a possible maiden major for the 33-year-old from Derby. She looked focused, bang in the zone, a study in determination. But all that intensity must have been mentally exhausting. A disappointing 73 on Friday, then a strange 78 yesterday that variously featured a shank, a whiffed chip and a hole-out from 100 yards for eagle. Out of contention, she’s already carded a couple of bogeys today, at 2 and 4, and has slipped down to +7. But when it all comes down, this week should give her plenty of confidence going forward. As a late bloomer in the majors, compared to your Lexis, Inbees and Lydias, she’s trending in the right direction. Glory soon?
The tee times for the final groups at the business end of this US Open, then. All BST.
5.59pm: Kim Hyo-joo, Maja Stark (a), Brooke Henderson
6.11pm: Megan Khang, Inbee Park, Angel Yin
6.23pm: Jeongeun Lee6, Shanshan Feng, Nasa Hataoka
6.35pm: Lexi Thompson, Yuka Saso, Megha Ganne (a)
It almost defies belief that Lexi Thompson has only one major title to her name. When she won the Kraft Nabisco in 2014 at 19, it was assumed that she’d start racking up the slams with Sorenstamian regularity. But for one reason and another, it’s never quite happened. Three second places in the majors, three thirds, 16 top-ten finishes. It’s about that time, and yesterday’s flawless 66 was carpe-diem stuff. This is the first time she’s led the US Open after any round, a stat that might not say much about most 26-year-olds, but Thompson first played in this tournament in 2007 at the precocious age of 12. This is her 15th consecutive appearance. Is she finally going to land major number two?
Yuka Saso is best placed to stop her. The powerful Filipino spent most of yesterday’s round driving like Seve, but no matter, thanks to her ability to gouge back into position, as though the penal Olympic Club rough wasn’t there, and her scrambling skills around the greens; she chips a bit like Seve, too. If she wins today, she’ll join Inbee Park as the only teenage winner of the US Open. Park won in 2008 at 19 years, 11 months and 17 days; that’s Saso’s exact age today. Some things seem written.
Or could Megha Ganne become only the second amateur to win the US Open, matching the feat of Catherine Lacoste in 1967? The 17-year-old from New Jersey received vociferous support from the gallery yesterday, at one point getting to within a shot of the lead. When asked for her secret, she smiled: “I figure why not make it fun?” She’s the real deal.
Some big names are lurking, including 2019 champion Jeongeun Lee6, 2012 PGA winner Shanshan Feng, major champs in waiting Nasa Hataoka and Megan Khang, and seven-time major winner Inbee Park. Should Thompson and Saso hit their stride, it will be a two-woman race, but anything can happen at Olympic Club, and it can happen to the best of them: just ask Arnold Palmer, who lost a seven-stroke lead on the back nine to Billy Casper in the 1966 men’s version. The final round of the 76th US Women’s Open is very much on. Our coverage begins at 6pm BST.
-7: Lexi Thompson
-6: Yuka Saso
-3: Megha Ganne, Jeongeun Lee6
-2: Shanshan Feng
-1: Nasa Hataoka, Megan Khang
E: Inbee Park
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