Thursday, July 14, 2016

Here comes Lydia Ko at the U.S. Women's Open

U.S. Women's Open - Round Two

Lydia Ko turned around a disappointing opening round at the U.S. Women’s Open on Friday, shooting a second-round, 6-under 66 that propelled her under par and just three shots out of the lead heading into the weekend.

Ko is at 5-under 139 at CordeValle in San Martin, Calif., and trails part-time LPGA Tour player Sung Hyun Park, who also shot 66 in Round 2.

Between Ko and Park are first-round leader Mirim Lee, who followed up an impressive opening 64 with an unsteady 74, and Amy Yang, who was a runner-up in this championship last year at Lancaster (Pa.) Country Club.

Perhaps the biggest difference for Ko between Thursday and Friday was the putter. The world No. 1 only needed 25 putts to get around the Robert Trent Jones Jr.-designed course. The jumpstart, however, was her third shot with a wedge into the par-5 third that landed less than a foot from the hole leading to her first birdie of the day. It was the start of a run of four consecutive birdies and five in seven holes. Two more birdies again no bogeys on the back nine got Ko within shouting distance of the lead.

The Kiwi teen believes she is starting to get the hang of the USGA style of play. For her, this is a difficult championship to win, where length is an asset. Ko is one of the shorter hitters on the LPGA, ranking 117th on the tour. Ko has also had to acclimate to the particular emphasis on par at the U.S. Women’s Open. It tests her cool demeanor and resolve.

“I think the more I play, I think the more I get used to it, especially at these majors where the courses are tough,” Ko said. “You need to stay patient. I think that’s the big key I’ve been learning, just keep my head high and just enjoy it out here.”

Ko, who played for the first two days with world No. 2, 18-year-old Brooke Henderson, and American star Lexi Thompson, said she had more fun on Friday. Now the real fun begins, so to speak. CordeValle firmed up on Day 2 and is expected to only get tougher. Ko said she thinks the USGA is watering the rough to encourage growth and thickness for the final rounds. There’s going to be little margin for error off the tee. However, if Ko can play well enough from tee to green, Ko’s Tour-leading putter could get her a third major championship in the last 12 months.

Ko doesn’t want to give the impression she’s thinking beyond the first shot she’ll hit in Saturday’s next-to-last group, but it’s clear she knows this is the preeminent championship in the sport.

“This is the biggest championship in the U.S.,” Ko said. “It would be a tournament that I would love to win. It takes a lot of great golf, a lot of patience to win this championship. There’s a lot of golf to be played. So I don’t really want to get ahead of myself, but it’s definitely up there, or at least once in my career.”

Ryan Ballengee is a Yahoo Sports contributor. Find him on Facebook and Twitter.

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