Staying near the top

Jun. 20, 2014 @ 09:06 PM

Stacy Lewis, the top-ranked golfer in the world, led a round into the U.S. Women's Open. On Friday at Pinehurst No. 2, she had to grind and hold on to stay in contention.

After an up-and-down, mostly down, first 13 holes, she did just that playing the last five holes with a birdie and four pars finishing with a 3-over 73 which leaves her even-par, good enough for tied for third, going into the weekend.

Lexi Thompson, an eight-year U.S. Open veteran at age 19 and a newly-crowned major tournament champ this past April, blazed her way into the final pair to play today with three straight birdies, on holes three, four and five, in her second nine Friday afternoon.

Lewis made bogey on the first hole but rebounded taking advantage of the 229-yard par four No. 3 for a birdie.

From there, four bogeys in a 10-hole span dropped her red number from the leaderboard. She admittedly didn't find greens and missed putts in the stretch.

"At a U.S. Open, you're going to have to make some 5- and 6-footers and that's what I didn't do today," Lewis said.

In her opening round, which was made up of 15 pars and three birdies, Lewis hit 17 greens in regulation. She hit 11 yesterday.

Still, even six bogeys in a round doesn't take a player out of the chase. Avoiding disasters is the main challenge.

"When you get in trouble on this course, you got to make bogey," she said. "You can't make doubles or worse than that."

In the closing holes, Lewis was trying "to keep hanging around" and "keep grinding" but did better than that - including a birdie two on No. 15 - for what could prove as important as anything which plays out today or tomorrow.

Thompson had a solid round going - with just a bogey on No. 18, her ninth hole, until coming up to No. 3.

Starting with a 5-wood on the drivable par four, Thompson took it from good to outstanding.

"I hit my 5-wood up green side and (in) a little bit of a waste area and actually putted it up to about two and a half feet," said Thompson on her first birdie.

On No. 4, playing at 445 yards and to a 4.5 average per player Friday, Thompson got one of the six birdies it allowed on the day. She hit a 7-iron from 171 yards out and drained a 15-foot putt.

The run continued on the par-five fifth, which became the easier of the two par fives in the second round. She hit the green in two and two-putted.

Thompson, while seemingly already an LPGA veteran, became the youngest player to win a major at April's Kraft Nabisco Championship at 19 years and a month old. Until this Open and 11-year-old Lucy Li, she was the youngest player to have qualified for a U.S. Women's Open.

"Just getting that confidence for my first major win helped me out," she said. "Just coming down the stretch with that much pressure, through the last round and not being that nervous.

"So coming into the weekend and being in the final group tomorrow, I think that experience will help me out a lot."

Lewis and Na Yeon Choi, starting the day at 1-over, will tee off at 1:03 p.m. Amy Yang and Minjee Lee, both at even par, will be the 1:14 p.m. pairing. Thompson and Michelle Wie, with a three-shot lead on Thompson thanks to consecutive 68s, will be the last pair off the first tee at 1:25 p.m.