Feng Extends Lead to Two as Amateur Choi Makes Waves July 14, 2017 | BEDMINSTER, N.J. By Ron Driscoll, USGA

Shanshan Feng followed up her opening-round 66 with a 2-under 70 on Friday to take a two-stroke lead after 36 holes. (USGA/Darren Carroll)

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Shanshan Feng finally made a bogey midway through the second round of the 72nd U.S. Women’s Open Championship, but it took her all of one hole to get the stroke back and continue her sole possession of the top spot at Trump National Golf Club.

And even though Feng extended her lead from one stroke to two on Friday over a trio of players, the native of Guangzhou, China, was not about to say that things are getting any easier.

“The course was already long and that made it even longer,” said Feng, 27, of the rain that delayed play for 2 hours on Thursday afternoon and fell for much of the day on Friday. “My front nine, I almost had to add 10 yards on some holes. I was hitting a lot of hybrids and 5-irons into the greens. Good thing that I actually hit them pretty well.”

Feng, whose rounds of 66-70 put her at 8-under-par 136, is seeking to become the second player from the People’s Republic of China to win a USGA championship. She would join Fumie (Alice) Jo, who won the 2014 U.S. Women’s Amateur Public Links Championship.

Feng leads three players from the Republic of Korea who stand at 6-under 138, one of whom has been in this position before. Amy Yang, 27, has finished in the top five of this championship five times in the last seven years, including runner-up finishes in 2012 and 2015. She is joined by Jeongeun6 Lee and amateur Hye-Jin Choi, who joined Feng at 8 under late in her round before back-to-back bogeys.

Not since Michelle Wie in 2005 has an amateur held a share of second place through 36 holes in the Women’s Open, and Choi’s total of 138 is the best since Grace Park shot 137 for 36 holes in 1999.

“When I was first traveling over here, my goal was to make the cut,” said Choi, 17, who was the low amateur in last year’s Women’s Open at CordeValle, tying for 38th place. “And if I made the cut, I was just looking for the top 10. So I’m already very happy with what I’m doing and I’m not going to feel any pressure. Just here to have fun.”

Choi tied for seventh place in an LPGA Tour event in February, the ISPS Handa Women’s Australian Open. Her second-round 69 matched Lee and four others for low round of the day.

Playing in her 11th Women’s Open, Yang birdied her final hole for a 1-under 71 and also noted the difficult conditions.

“It rained a lot on the front nine,” she said. “I just tried to hang in there and just kept grinding. I like where I am positioned right now. I’m hitting good, putting good and feeling good about my game right now.”

Lee, 21, added the numeral to her surname to differentiate herself, because she is the sixth player with the same name to compete on the Korean LPGA Tour. The Rookie of the Year on that tour in 2016 is visiting the U.S. for the first time, buoyed, no doubt, by her “Lucky 6” fan club.

Jeongeun6 Lee earned plenty of attention during the first two rounds of the championship, and not just because of her unusual name. (USGA/Chris Keane)

Seon Woo Bae, of Korea, is alone in fifth place at 5-under 139 and credited her short game with helping her follow up an opening 70 with a 3-under 69 on Friday. She is one shot ahead of four players, including a pair of former champions, 2011 winner So Yeon Ryu and 2015 winner In Gee Chun, both of Korea. They are joined by Carlota Ciganda, of Spain, and Haru Nomura, of Japan.

Ryu shook off a double bogey on the par-3 seventh hole to finish at even par for the day.

“I think I played enough U.S. Opens to understand about this tournament,” said Ryu, who is playing in her eighth championship and has three top fives to go along with her playoff victory in 2011. “Anything can happen. Even after I made a double, I was like, OK, it’s not a big deal. I can make up nicely. Let's play well.”

The pride of Wayne, N.J., Marina Alex, 26, is not only the low player from the host state, but the low American through two rounds, in a four-way tie for 10th place. With two missed cuts and a tie for 20th in 2015, she is thrilled with her position at 3-under 141, in a logjam with former world No. 1 Lydia Ko, of New Zealand; Brooke Henderson, of Canada; and Minjee Lee, of Australia.

“There’s always pressure being so close to home,” said Alex, who has competed in an LPGA Tour event in Atlantic City several times. “There’s a lot of fans out and they’ll shout, ‘Go Jersey, Go Wayne.’ It’s cool, it really is. It’s never going to happen again for me. I got to soak it in. I’m really happy with where I put myself the last two days.”

Ron Driscoll is the manager of editorial services for the USGA. Email him at rdriscoll@usga.org.

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