U.S. Women’s Open: Ko in the lead, but several in close range

Lydia Ko was tied for 52nd place before the start of Friday’s second round of the U.S. Women’s Open at CordeValle in San Martin. But two rounds later the world’s top-ranked player finds herself in a familiar position: on top of the leaderboard entering the final round of a tournament.
Ko shot a 2-under 70 on Saturday and is 7-under par entering Sunday’s final round. Two South Koreans—Eun Hee Ji and Sung Hyun Park—are tied for second at 6-under and Brittany Lang is tied for fourth after shooting the round of the day, a 4-under 68. She’s at 5-under along with Amy Yang.
Sunday’s final round has the potential to produce great drama, as there are 12 players within five shots of the lead. Ko, 19, represents the youth movement in women’s golf. Out of the top 10 players in the Rolex world rankings, nine are under the age of 30. Ko has come a long way since playing in her first U.S. Open at Blackwolf Run in 2012.
“The most nervous I’ve ever been at any tournament is this event when I played it the first time at Blackwolf Run,” she said. “On the first hole I couldn’t line up (my putt) at all my hands were shaking that bad. At that time I said, ‘Why am I so nervous?’ Because when I looked back, it meant a lot.”
Ko is seeking to win a tour best fourth title this season to go along with a third major in her last four tries. Ko won the Evian Championship last year to become the youngest winner of a major at 18 years, 4 months and 20 days old. She followed that up with a victory in this year’s first major, the ANA Inspiration.
Ko would love nothing more than to close the deal Sunday.
“I’ve always come off a U.S. Open saying, ‘Hey, I could’ve done a little better,’” she said. “I always felt something was missing.”
The contingent of South Koreans in the field—a South Korean has won the U.S. Open in four of the last five years—is making its presence felt once again. Ji, Park and Yang are legitimate threats to win, particularly Ji, who won the 2009 U.S. Open and seemingly has the right temperament to win in the crucible of a major championship.
Ji wins by thinking about everything but winning—a paradox if there ever was one. However, by focusing on every shot and staying in the moment, Ji seemingly puts herself in a catatonic state on the course.
“I’m not trying to win you know,” she said. “I play, focus on my game and try to be patient out there. That’s all.”
Ji said it helps that her caddie talks to her a lot throughout her round.
“Actually, my caddie talks to me a lot when we have a difficult shot or if we’re on the green,” she said. “He talks to me (about) a lot (of) other (things) than golf.”
Nowhere was that player-caddie relationship more important than on hole No. 18, when Ji got up and down for a par after landing in the rough.
Ko had her own moment of bliss on No. 14, when she drained a huge left-to-right bender from 16 feet to save par. When the ball rolled in, Ko turned to her caddie with a look of disbelief.
“I wasn’t expecting that to go in,” she said. “I thought I over-read (the line) again because that’s what I was doing the majority of the day.”
Ko, Ji and Park are in the final pairing Sunday and will tee off at 10:30 a.m.

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