World beaters storm to the top of the LPGA leaderboard, and that includes Rose Zhang

June 02, 2023

Minjee Lee lines up her shot on the ninth hole during the second round of the Mizuho Americas Open.


The LPGA Tour's best are taking over the top of the leaderboard in the inaugural Mizuho Americas Open at Liberty National in Jersey City. Five of the top 10 players in the Rolex Women's World Rankings are in the top eight through the second round, which finished after sunset Friday following a one-hour, 45-minute weather delay.

After shooting eight-under-par 64 in the second round, Minjee Lee (No. 5) is tied for the lead at seven-under par with Cheyenne Knight. Lydia Ko (No. 3) sits a stroke behind at six under. Another shoy back are Jin Young Ko (No. 1), Atthaya Thitikul (No. 6), Brooke Henderson (No. 7), Aditi Ashok and Rose Zhang, the former World Amateur No. 1 making her pro debut. It sets up a titanic weekend clash fitting for the New York City skyline stage.

Lee surged to the top of the leaderboard by firing the 64 that bested her first round by nine shots. Her season started slowly, as the 2022 U.S. Women's Open winner finished outside the top 40 in her first three events until a playoff loss at the Cognizant Founders Cup two weeks ago to Jin Young Ko. Even though Lee shot one over par Thursday, the Australian didn't think her game was all that different in the second round.


Rose Zhang walks off the 15th green during the second round of the Mizuho Americas Open.

Adam Hunger

"I didn't really feel like my score reflected sort of how I played yesterday, so I really just came in with a positive attitude," Lee said. "I knew there was probably going to be less wind this morning, so just tried to take advantage of the good conditions that were given to me."

Zhang, 20, was among the last players to finish on Friday and will be a contender in her first weekend as a pro after finishing her college career at Stanford just over a week ago. The Californian already has eight starts scheduled, and a top-10 finish at Liberty National would earn her another at next week's Shoprite LPGA Classic. The only avenue available for the 12-time NCAA winner to earn her tour card between now and September is to win an LPGA event.

Lydia Ko, who played with Lee over the first two days, turned around after a disappointing few weeks that knocked her down from the top of the world rankings. The Kiwi hasn't finished in the top 10 since her first start of the year or placed inside the top 30 in her last four starts since. Ko credited regaining her momentum this week to a T-3 finish at the Ladies European Tour's Aramco Team Series in Florida two weeks ago.

"I would say it has been a very colorful scorecard, not in a good way, not the birdie colors," Ko said. "I think it's kind of given me time to work with my team and reset. I think we're moving in the right direction. It's not perfect, but I feel a lot more comfortable and confident now than maybe a couple weeks ago."

Jin Young Ko went back out to Liberty National with three holes to play following the weather delay and birdied the eighth to finish a six-under 66 round, rebounding from a Thursday 73. A victory Sunday would be Ko's third win of the season and back-to-back New Jersey triumphs with her victory at the Cognizant Founder's Cup two weeks ago. In February, Ko also successfully defended her title at the HSBC Women's World Championship. A win Sunday would also mark the third year of her career with at least three victories, joining 2019 (four) and 2021 (five).

It's been a self-described "weird" season for Henderson. After winning the Hilton Grand Vacations Tournament of Champions, her performances have been up and down, ranging from missing two cuts to a T-11 at the Lotte Championship. That roller-coaster trend continued in her second round Friday, as the Canadian doubled the first hole. But, impressively, she recovered quickly, birdieing three in a row on the third through fifth en route to a two-under 70 to sit two off the lead.

"I think especially over the last couple months I've been really working on my mindset and trying to stay a little bit more relaxed out there and calm," Henderson said. "You know, when things don't go my way, just trying to bounce back quickly. Just trying to be a strong and tough competitor, and today paid off and I was able to get it back under par which feels really nice."

Thitikul sitting in the top 10 of a leaderboard is a familiar position for the Thai star. The 20-year-old, over seven starts, has five top-10 finishes and three top 5s, including a T-5 in her last start at the Cognizant Founder's Cup two weeks ago. A victory would be her first since the Walmart NW Arkansas Championship last September.