2019-06-01 by W.M.
Mamiko Higa Holds On to the Lead at the U.S. Women’s Open
CHARLESTON, S.C. — Mamiko Higa of Japan birdied three of her final six holes after a weather delay of nearly two hours, shooting an even-par 71 and maintaining a one-shot lead Friday in the suspended second round of the United States Women’s Open.
A day after shooting a 65 for the lowest debut round in tournament history, Higa was a stroke behind Jessica Korda when thunderstorms and lightning caused officials to suspend play at the Country Club of Charleston. When play resumed, Higa rediscovered her first-round touch and regained the lead over Korda at six under par with a 14-footer on her final hole.
Forty-five players were on the course when play was halted because of darkness. They will finish on Saturday before third-round play starts.
Korda shot a 68, her lowest score in 38 career rounds in the major tournament.
The American amateur Gina Kim had a 72, joining Céline Boutier of France at four under. Boutier had four holes to play.
Lexi Thompson and Nelly Korda, Jessica’s younger sister, were among four players at three under. Thompson has two holes to play, and the younger Korda has three. Also at three under were the American Jaye Marie Green and Jeongeun Lee6 of South Korea. Green shot a 68, and Lee6 — who adopted her unique name after the Korean L.P.G.A. gave it to her because five other players had registered with the same name — a 69.
The two-time U.S. Women’s Open champion Inbee Park was among a group of eight at two under after her second straight 70.
Jin Young Ko, the world’s No. 1-ranked player, was at even par after a 70, while Ariya Jutanugarn, the tournament’s defending champion, was at two over with two holes left.
Higa struggled through much of her round before the rains came. She immediately got going after the long break by rolling in an 11-foot birdie putt and tying Korda at the top. Higa regained the lead on each of her final two birdies on the par-5 fifth and ninth holes.
Higa stumbled with a three-putt bogey on the seventh hole, again falling into a tie with Korda. But on the her final hole, with darkness closing in, Higa confidently struck from 14 feet and headed into the clubhouse with the 36-hole lead at the season’s second major.
“I could finish up a tough day with a birdie,” she said through an interpreter, “and so I was so happy.”
Jessica Korda finished her bogey-free performance — just her fifth sub-70 showing in 38 career rounds at this major — well before the weather delay. Korda, playing in milder morning conditions, did not get her round going until making a birdie on the par-5 15th hole — she opened on the back nine — and followed that with another on the par-3 17th.
Her final birdie came on the par-5 fifth as she landed just short of the green in two and then chipped up within 3 feet, moving to five under as she finished before Higa teed off.
Korda had planned to be more aggressive on the par-5s and accomplished that with birdies on two of the three on Charleston’s par-71 layout. She left her approach on the final par-5, the ninth hole, about 40 feet away and settled for par.
Korda was happy with her strategy not to get ahead of herself. “It’s a U.S. Open,” she said. “Patience is the name of the game.”
With three holes remaining for each, the new professionals Jennifer Kupcho and Maria Fassi were both inside the projected cut line of three over. Kupcho, the Augusta National women’s amateur champion, was at even par. Fassi, the N.C.A.A. women’s individual champion, was at three over.
A lightning strike during the delay hit a large tree alongside the 18th fairway with a loud boom that was heard throughout the clubhouse area, where players, caddies and tournament personnel and volunteers had taken shelter.
“It was very scary,” said Emma Talley, who won the 2013 U.S. Women’s Amateur at Charleston and is competing this week. “I’m glad everyone was O.K. I was scared it hit one of the tents, but I’m glad it hit the tree instead.”