SHOAL CREEK, Ala. – Ariya Jutanugarn’s U.S. Women’s Open record isn’t exactly stellar. Four missed cuts in five starts to be exact. But that championship vibe could be flipped this weekend if the former World No. 1 continues her current form. Jutanugarn pulled within three shots of Aussie Sarah Jane Smith’s 10-under 134 mark Saturday morning at Shoal Creek, where half the field has completed the second round.
To say Jutanugarn has taken this strange week in stride would be an understatement. When the 22-year-old’s clubs failed to arrive until Tuesday, she had not one but two days off of practice due to weather constraints. Jutanugarn held a share of the lead in Round 1 despite having seen only nine holes prior to teeing off. During Friday afternoon’s nearly four-hour rain delay, she happily watched Thai dramas and listened to Thai pop music.
“I’m not really thinking about my position,” she said after wrapping up 10 holes Saturday morning, “but I’m really happy about my game right now. I’ve worked on a lot of things. I’ve been improving every day to me.”
While Jutanugarn grinded in the heat, Smith enjoyed an extended break. Whether or not all that time to think about holding a three-shot lead in a major did her good is yet to be seen. Smith, winless in 222 starts on the LPGA, began playing near flawless golf this week, seemingly out of nowhere.
To speed up play, officials will put players out in threesomes for Round 3 off of both tees. Jutanugarn and Smith will be joined by fellow Aussie Su Oh in the final group at 3:35 p.m. EDT.
The amateur Linn Grant, an 18-year-old Swede, will be in the penultimate group with Jenny Shin and Chella Choi at 2:24 p.m. The trio are part of a pack of eight players at 3 under, that also includes former Women’s Open winners Michelle Wie and Inbee Park.
“I wish I had made a couple more birdies today, but at the same time you know, I grinded it out out there,” said Wie, “made a lot of par putts. I’m really happy about the position I’m in. Hopefully the next two days, give myself a couple more birdie chances and try to make something happen.”
Grant leads a group of seven amateurs that made the cut at Shoal Creek: Patty Tavatanakit (-1), Kristen Gillman (Even), Albane Valenzuela (+1), Lucy Li (+2), Elizabeth Wang (+2) and Hailee Cooper (+4).
Notable pros who missed the cut: Anna Nordqvist, Stacy Lewis, Karrie Webb, Jessica Korda, Paula Creamer, Shanshan Feng and 2017 USWO champion Sung Hyun Park.