U.S. WOMEN'S OPEN CHAMPIONSHIP: Wie, Yang share four-shot lead

Jun. 21, 2014 @ 09:02 PM

Amy Yang and Michelle Wie played two entirely different rounds on Saturday. But going into today’s play, they both have a shot at their first major title.

Yang and Wie will tee off in the last group this afternoon, tied for the lead at 2-under at the 2014 U.S. Women’s Open after a bumpy, humid Saturday.

Yang had four birdies and three bogeys in her first seven holes, but settled down on the back nine with birdies on holes No. 10 and 12 and briefly held the lead before a bogey on the 18th hole. She shot a 68, her best round of the tournament and the second-best round of the day.

“My shots were better the last two days, and I had really good speed on the greens,” Yang said. “Pinehurst No. 2 greens are really hard to get aggressive on. I think I controlled my irons really good today.”

Wie, who came into Saturday with a three-shot lead, was at 6-under after a birdie on the 10th hole, but went double bogey-bogey-par-bogey on her next four holes to finish with a 72, her first over-par round of the week.

“I just grinded today,” Wie said. “Sometimes you have to start over and make some pars, just keep grinding it out.”

The best round of the day came from perhaps a surprising source. Juli Inkster, the 1999 and 2002 U.S. Women’s Open champion, went off early and had just one bogey, shooting a tournament-best 66 to move to 2-over, tied for third place with Stephanie Meadow (69), Na Yeon Choi (71) and amateur Minjee Lee (72). Inkster was 10 shots back of Wie beginning Saturday.

“I’m very proud, very proud of myself and the way I came back today and played,” Inkster said. “I played aggressive. I hit a lot of beautiful iron shots. I putted good. I’m very, very pleased.”

Something got the best of Lexi Thompson, who was in solo second place after 36 holes at 1-under, on Saturday. Thompson got to 3-under for the tournament after birdies on the third and fifth holes, but double-bogeyed the eighth and ninth holes and shot a 37 on the back nine to shoot a 74. She sits at 3-over, along with first-round leader Stacy Lewis, who had four bogeys and one double-bogey in a round of 74.

The course played the easiest it had played all week based on average score. After averaging a little over 75 strokes per round the first two days, players shot an average of 73.296 on Saturday.

But players still had to deal with tough greens and humid conditions. Many once again preached patience as an important virtue.

“(Pinehurst No. 2 is) the type of golf course where you’ve got to be accurate,” said Meadow, who birdied five of her first 10 holes on Saturday. “You’ve got to hit your numbers and you’ve got to be really patient, because you’re going to hit great shots and they’re not going to end on the green. I don’t know if it really suits anyone, it’s just about execution.”

Yang, who was the runner-up at the 2012 U.S. Women’s Open, said handling her emotions will be a key part of handling the pressure of being in the final group of a major championship.

“Still working on it, I’m much better at controlling my emotion and controlling the nervous feeling,” she said. “I think it’s going to be a fun round. Just like today, I’m just going to be patient all day.”

Wie spoke about being an American and how much she wanted to win her national championship. Her best finish is a tie for third in 2006.

“I’m really grateful that I have another opportunity at this,” she said. “I also feel like as an American I just feel very proud that I’m in contention. I will play with pride tomorrow. And I’m going to have fun.”