Brett Lasky on LPGA TOUR – June 02, 2018: All the buzz around Shoal Creek at the start of the week, besides the weather, were the giants of the game. Could Lexi Thompson win her first U.S. Women’s Open? Could Inbee Park claim number three? Would Sung Hyun Park defend? Could Michelle Wie find the magic of 2014 at Pinehurst?
But what all the pundits should have learned from Pernilla Lindberg’s victory at the first major of the year, the ANA Inspiration, is that anything is possible.
Another underdog story is brewing on day two of the U.S. Women’s Open conducted by the USGA. Australia’s Sarah Jane Smith lit up the leaderboard with a 5-under, 67 to soar into the lead at 10-under par.
“I just felt really easy,” said Smith. “It was strange, the front nine. I was sort of holing a lot of putts. I didn’t hit a great shot into 13, and then holed maybe a 40-footer for birdie there. It was just like the front nine felt really nice. Obviously it sucked to have the three-putt on 8, but can’t complain too much.”
Smith has eight top 10 finishes, but no wins since joining the LPGA in 2006. She has missed the cut in seven of her 13 starts. While there have been glimpses of strong play this season, like a 67 in the third round of last week’s LPGA Volvik Championship and a 67 in the final round of the HSBC Women’s World Championship, her best finish is a T26 at the Kia Classic.
Further, she’s missed the cut in five of six appearances at the U.S. Women’s Open, with her best finish T46 in 2013.
After a 67 on Thursday that included an eagle on the par-5 11th, Smith showed no signs of letting up with a bogey-free gem.
“Well, I haven’t been in the position before, I but I hope to show up like it’s another day,” said Smith. “I’m happy with the way I’m playing. I feel comfortable on the greens which has been something that has been a little bit off laterally. So it’s nice to be able to feel like I’m seeing the greens really well and seeing some putts go in. Hopefully that keeps going.”
This is all very similar to what Lindberg did on the Dinah Shore Course. She opened with a 65 and opened a lot of eyes and then followed it up with a 67 to show signs that it may be her week.
Smith went 29 consecutive holes without a bogey between the front nine of her first round and the second to last hole of her second round, when she made a three-putt bogey on the par-3 eighth hole.
Swedish amateur Linn Grant, 18, continues to be a major story. She turned in an even-par, 72 to stay at 3-under and remains in the top 10. Grant is currently 57th in the world amateur rankings.
Chella Choi also made a nice move on Friday, jumping from T19 to T4. Jenny Shin and Carlotta Ciganda also moved into the top five.
First round leader Ariya Juanugarn (-5) started her second 18 at 1:15 p.m. local time.
The second round was suspended at 2:27 p.m. local time due to dangerous weather in the area.