U.S. Open

Pinehurst Resort & Country Club (Course No. 2)

U.S. Women's Open

Rose Zhang slides into contention at Women’s Open, improves 11 spots during afternoon without hitting a shot

July 07, 2023

Harry How

PEBBLE BEACH ­— Rose Zhang had quite the afternoon in the U.S. Women’s Open, and she didn’t hit a golf shot. She was probably relaxing on a comfy couch somewhere.

It was 2:15 p.m. in California when Zhang putted out for par on her last hole, the ninth at Pebble Beach, in the second round. The 20-year-old sensation recorded a 71, a three-shot improvement from the first round, and stood at one over to be tied for 22nd place as the morning wave players finished.

“Really grateful that I was able to make the cut,” Zhang said after she signed her scorecard.

How does she feel now that she’s in contention?

As the temperature dropped and the wind picked up on the Monterey Peninsula coastline, the scores climbed. So much so, that it seemed Zhang was making up ground by the minute. And by the time the clock struck 8 and the sun set, there was Zhang on the first page of the leaderboard, tied for 11th place.

Heading into the weekend, Zhang still trails leader Bailey Tardy, who was in the first group out on the back nine Friday morning during easier conditions and shot the day’s best score of 68 to be at seven under. But the margin of eight off the lead with 36 holes to play and gusty winds in the forecast will give the fans of Zhang—and probably TV executives—hope for a compelling weekend after the gloomy skies and challenging conditions on Friday afternoon turned the play into a bit of an undramatic slog.

Tardy, whose best finish this season is a T-23 in Hawaii while missing five cuts, was two shots ahead of Allisen Corpuz and Hyo Joo Kim, who shot 70 and 71, respectively, also in the morning. The point being that anybody in the top 11 going into the weekend can believe they have a chance to lift the trophy on Sunday. It’s very possible that the scores will only come further back to level.

Zhang, in her U.S. Open debut as a pro, managed only three birdies in her second round, but avoided the big number that bit her on Thursday when she double bogeyed the eighth hole. Starting on the difficult ninth hole, Zhang got off slowly with bogeys at 12 and 16, and that point she was hovering around the early cutline of four over.

But she striped her tee shot to 10 feet on the par-3 17th to make birdie, and then played her second nine in two under with birdies on the two par 5s, Nos. 2 and 6.

“I was able to hole a really, really good putt on 17 and that kind of shifted my momentum into the back nine,” Zhang said. “Felt very solid with my game in general. I knew that I had some errors yesterday that I wanted to prevent, so today I tried to work on those things and figure out how to play the course better.”

Of the 10 players ahead of Zhang, only In Gee Chun and Hyo Joo Kim have won major championships. Her trouble, however, is that, with the tough conditions leveling the playing field, there are 11 players tied at one over.