Round 3: Five Things To Watch For July 15, 2017 | BEDMINSTER, N.J. By Michael Trostel, USGA

New Jersey native Marina Alex is the only American in the top 10 through two rounds. (USGA/Chris Keane)

U.S. Women's Open Home

We’re halfway home in the 72nd U.S. Women’s Open. While there are a few surprise names near the top of the leader board, eight of the top 10 players in the Rolex Rankings are in 21st place or better as we prepare for Saturday’s third round.

Persistent rain and lush rough made scoring more difficult on Friday, as the second-round scoring average (74.92) was more than a stroke higher than in Round 1 (73.85). Some familiar faces will be around for the weekend, including two-time champion Karrie Webb, Stacy Lewis and defending champion Brittany Lang, who each made their 10th consecutive cut in the U.S. Women’s Open. Others with high expectations coming in, such as two-time winner Inbee Park, Ariya Jutanugarn and 2014 champion Michelle Wie, departed early, Wie having withdrawn due to injury.

Shanshan Feng leads by two strokes heading into “Moving Day,” with 36 holes (or more) to be played before the Harton S. Semple Trophy is awarded on Sunday evening. Here’s what else to watch for today:

Channeling Lacoste: It was an impressive encore for 2016 U.S. Women’s Open low amateur Hye-Jin Choi in the first two rounds. The 17-year-old from the Republic of Korea recorded the second-lowest 36-hole total (6-under 138) by an amateur in championship history and her position (tied for second) is the best by an amateur since Wie in 2005. Catherine Lacoste is the only non-professional to win the championship, doing so in 1967 at The Homestead. Can Choi become the second amateur to accomplish the feat on the 50th anniversary of Lacoste’s victory? She’ll need another good round on Saturday to keep this dream alive.


Newbie Nerves
: Not only is this Jeongeun6 Lee’s first U.S. Women’s Open, it’s her first time in the United States. She was Rookie of the Year on the Korean LPGA Tour in 2016 and has 10 top-10 finishes in 14 starts on the KLPGA this year, including one win. Lee has played beautifully through 36 holes, making nine birdies against three bogeys to grab a share of second place with Choi and Amy Yang at the halfway mark. But can she handle golf’s ultimate test over the weekend? “I’m really surprised that I played well at the U.S. Open,” said Lee, through an interpreter. “I’m nervous because I’m not sure if I [will] finish well the last two days.” All eyes will be on her in Saturday’s final grouping with Feng.

Bombers' Delight: With more than an inch of rain falling on Thursday and Friday, the already soggy Trump National will surely play long over the weekend. The fairways are unlikely to provide much rollout, so long hitters with a high ball flight should have a significant advantage, meaning players like Yang, Brooke Henderson and Lexi Thompson could have wedges into some holes where others have mid-irons in. Feng already noticed a difference on Friday afternoon. “I had to add 10 yards on my second shots. [On Thursday] I was hitting maybe 7-irons and 9-irons but today I was hitting 5-irons, hybrids and even 3-wood on the 18th hole. It did play really differently.”

Gettable Par 5s: While the shortest hole at Trump National, the 158-yard seventh, gave players fits, the longest holes on the course provided good scoring opportunities. Three pars 5s – Nos. 1, 15 and 18 – have played as the three easiest holes through two rounds. Each played under par on Thursday and Friday, yielding a combined 238 birdies and three eagles. If competitors are looking to make a jump up the leader board on “Moving Day,” they need to take advantage of these holes on Saturday.

Jersey Sure: Marina Alex is the only American among a slew of international players in the top 13 of the championship leader board. The 26-year-old has hit her stride in 2017, recording four top-10 finishes on the LPGA Tour – nearly equaling her total of five from the four previous years combined. She is also a native of the Garden State, having grown up in Wayne, N.J., less than 40 miles from Bedminster. “It's great having my family here,” said Alex, who is playing in her fourth U.S. Women’s Open. “There are a lot of fans backing me, which is awesome. They’ll shout, ‘Go Jersey, Go Wayne!’ It's really cool so I’m soaking it all in.”

Michael Trostel is the senior content producer for the USGA. Email him at mtrostel@usga.org.

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