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Minjee Lee stays in the mix for Women's US Open glory

3 minute read

Minjee Lee remains the top Australian, in a tie for third and just three shots off the lead after the second round of the Women's US Open golf championship.

MINJEE LEE.
MINJEE LEE. Picture: Jeff Gross/Getty Images

Embracing the grind, Minjee Lee has earned a golden shot at winning a third golf major in three years with another classy round at the Women's US Open in Pennsylvania.

Lee's second-round one-under 69 left Australia's world No.9 in a tie for third, just three shots behind Thai halfway leader Wichanee Meechai, who fired a 67 to establish a two-stroke lead over American Andrea Lee (69).

Japan's Yuka Saso, the 2021 champion, is level with Lee at one under, after carding a 71.

Highlighting the devilish conditions at traditionally the strongest test in golf, the four players under par are the fewest in red numbers at a US Open since Pinehurst a decade ago.

After opening with two early birdies, Lee - whose two majors include a Women's US Open at Pine Needles two years ago - made consecutive bogeys at the turn and then played mistake-free the rest of the way home.

A day after Nelly Korda made a 10 on the par-3 12th, Lee showed the world No.1 how to play the hole, hitting her tee shot to three feet for birdie before rolling in a 20-footer on the next.

She got back under par with a 12-foot birdie putt on No.5. Otherwise, it was all pars on her second nine, and she was fine with that.

"I love playing US Opens. I love the challenge. I love the difficulty," Lee said.

"I just love that I really need to think about what I'm doing and be strategic.

"I just try to stay within myself and just stay as grounded as I can and just try and execute each shot to the 100 per cent of my ability and obviously how I want to put full commitment into it.

"Just try to stay in the moment. You have to because it's so hard out there."

Lee's Perth stablemate Hannah Green will need to conjure something special after backing up a first-round 76 with a 71 to be seven over and 11 shots back of Meechai.

Sarah Kemp (75-72) is tied for 45th with Green after only earning a late call-up on Monday.

And with a hat-trick of back-nine birdies and a brilliant up-and-down par from the rough on the last, Gabriela Ruffels (75-73) made the halfway cut on the number at eight over.

Ruffels hasn't given up hope of reeling in the leaders now she's made the weekend.

"I know that at a US Open," said the LPGA Tour's rookie-of-the-year leader.

"I missed the cut at Pine Needles and one of the girls in my group made the cut. That was a real turning point for me because she ended up finishing like top 20 and she made the cut on the number.

"You just never know, and it's just kind of keeping yourself in there and grinding it out and seeing if I can make the cut and what you can do on the weekend."

Either way, with an $US12 million ($A18 million) total purse, the money and season-long points on offer are gold for Ruffels and co.

But fellow Australians Steph Kyriacou (77-76) at 13 over and Keeley Marx (76-81) at 17 over both missed the cut.

As did a stack of big names, led by Korda.

Chasing a seventh win of the year, Korda made a valiant effort to get back in the tournament following that calamitous septuple bogey on Thursday, but eventually missed out by two shots after backing up an 80 with a second-round 70.

Also packing up early were US prodigy Rose Zhang, New Zealand's former world No.1 Lydia Ko and defending champion Allisen Corpuz.

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