BARRINGTON, R.I.—Moriya Jutanugarn hit 10 of 15 fairways, 13 of 18 greens, made three birdies to just one bogey during the first 18 holes of the U.S. Women's Amateur championship match.
And she finds herself 4 down to Danielle Kang.
That's how stellar the play from the defending champion was under overcast skies Sunday morning at Rhode Island CC. Kang, 18, made seven birdies over the first 13 holes, missing just one green, to take a 6-up lead on Jutanugarn. The pulled shots she complained about during her quarterfinal and semifinal matches the previous two days, a result of a sore back and rib, weren't to be found as Kang's play tee to green was as precise as it's been all week.
Indeed, on the first and second holes, Kang had birdie putts inside 15 feet that could have made things even more lopsided.
Kang's putter got hot after that, her birdie on the third hole was conceded after the approach shot stopped inside two feet. The birdie on four was rolled in from 10 feet, on five from five feet and on eight she had her birdie conceded from two feet. Her birdies on the 11th, 12th and 13th holes were from 16, five and 11 feet, respectively.
To Jutanugarn's credit, the 17-year-old from Thailand continued to grind, hitting the ball solidly and hoping that Kang might eventually cool off. When Jutanugarn hit her approach shot on the 14th hole to one foot, she won the hole with her conceded birdie. Then on the 15th, when Kang hit her approach shot into a greenside bunker—the only missed shot by Kang all afternoon—Jutanugarn won again with a two-putt par, cutting Kang's lead to the 4-up margin that it would remain at after the end of the morning 18.
While the round began in a light rain, the wet weather held off for the most part with only sprinkles occasionally greeting the competitors. Still, the USGA will start the afternoon round at noon with more rain in the day's forecast.
Should Kang maintain the lead and win the title, she'll be the first repeat winner in the championship since Kelli Kuehne in 1995-96 and just the fourth since World War II. It's also believed that she would be the third youngest golfer to have won the Robert Cox Trophy for a second time, with only Beatrix Hoyt and Genevieve Hecker being younger.