Inbee Park leads U.S. Women's Open
SOUTHAMPTON, N.Y. -- Inbee Park couldn't see her final tee shot past about 150 yards.
Nothing fazes the world's top-ranked player these days, though. Fog had rolled in off Great Peconic Bay, and the horn sounded with Park's group on the 18th fairway. The threesome finished out the second round of the U.S. Women's Open, with Park calmly sinking a birdie putt from 12 feet to move closer to history.
She shot a 4-under 68 on Friday for a 9-under total to lead fellow South Korean I.K. Kim by two strokes. Park is seeking to win the year's first three major championships; no one has accomplished that feat in a season with at least four majors.
Of the players yet to finish the round, the closest, England's Jodi Ewart Shadoff, was five strokes back with three holes to go.
Ha-Neul Kim, the first-round leader, had a 77 to fall to 1 under.
Players were surprised Thursday to arrive at Sebonack to find the tees moved up and the weather calm -- an easy course by U.S. Women's Open standards. On Friday, the setup and the conditions were more what they expected: The wind picked up and some pins were tucked into uncomfortable spots.
Then the mist settled in late in the afternoon session.
Of the 114 players who finished, only nine were under par for the round.
"With the wind and fog, it really made me think that's what the U.S. Open is all about," said Park, a five-time winner this year coming off consecutive victories.
Of the other players to complete the round, Lizette Salas was third at 4 under after a 72. Fellow Americans Angela Stanford and Jessica Korda were another stroke back. Stanford had a 68, and Korda shot 71.
I.K. Kim shot a 69 in the morning session.
"Anything under par I thought was going to be a great score," she said.
Kim seems to thrive under the demands of this tournament, finishing in third or fourth place three straight years from 2008 to '10.
But the closest she came to a major title came last year at the Kraft Nabisco -- one foot away, to be exact. Needing just a short putt to clinch the championship, Kim watched the ball lip out on the 18th hole. She went on to lose in a playoff.
"Everybody has ups and downs," Kim said. "Definitely finishing top five in the U.S. Open is not a bad place. But there's times that I was disappointed. I just have a faith -- if you do your best, everything is going to be OK."
Park's putting was not quite as impeccable as usual, but she made one of her toughest birdie tries of the day on No. 13, a 20-footer from the fringe, to tie Kim at 7 under.
On the par-5 15th, she sent her third shot to the back of the green, where it bounced off the fringe and rolled down to within a foot of the hole. Park tapped in for birdie and the outright lead.
"Everything that was closer was not going in, then everything that was further away from the hole was going in today," she said. "It was weird."
Her playing partner, second-ranked Stacy Lewis, had a rough day with a 76 that left her at 3 over.
Among the players still on the course were Michelle Wie, who was at 3 over for the round through 17 holes after an 80 on Thursday, and 16-year-old amateur Lydia Ko, at 3 over for the tournament through 16. The round will resume at 7 a.m. Saturday, with the third round beginning around 10:30 a.m. Players will start in groups of three from the first and 10th tees.
Salas was frustrated that she barely missed several birdie putts, but she knows her 72 was a good score in the swirling wind Friday.
"You just can't be too greedy out here," she said. "Just hitting fairways, hitting greens, that was my goal. Eventually the putts will drop."
The wind stirred up more trouble following her round. Walking off the 18th green after saving par, Salas suddenly realized she had lost the scorecard she was keeping for Stanford. She deduced it was blown away while she was signing autographs, and after a couple of minutes it turned up in the hands of a spectator.
"I think he was trying to keep it as a souvenir," Salas said. "I was asking everyone and no one saw it. And apparently some dude picked it up."
The 20-year-old Korda has been one of the most consistent players this week with rounds of 70 and 71. Meanwhile, her 14-year-old sister, Nelly, was the youngest player in the field. Their father, 1998 Australian Open tennis champ Petr Korda, caddied for Nelly, who finished at 6 over -- which would make the projected cut.
Stanford matched Park with the best score of the day. A decade ago at the U.S. Women's Open, Stanford reached a playoff, in which she made a 30-foot putt on the final hole. Then she watched Hilary Lunke hole a 15-footer for the win.
Stanford is still seeking her first major title at age 35.
Upset that she shot a 73 on Thursday in favorable conditions, Stanford found some patience in the second round -- not a mindset that comes easily. She credited her caddie for some recent counsel: "You've just got to pray for acceptance."
"And I was like, whoa. I didn't see that one coming," Stanford said. "Like I just need to accept certain things, and I think I've been very upset that I haven't won a major. ... So I think there is a level of peace right now and it's different. I'm not as mad as I usually am. I have a lot of great things to be thankful for, so I'm trying to enjoy this week, and I'm trying to enjoy the scenery."