The thing about weekends at the U.S. Women’s Open is that it is the weekend at the U.S. Women’s Open. Over the next 36 holes, Pebble Beach Golf Links will likely add major-championship pressure to its formidable defenses. With each passing round and each hole, the magnitude of the moment ratchets up in intensity.
Those among the 74 players who made the cut are halfway home in terms of holes played, but have an eternity to go in terms of the challenges ahead.
Saturday is Moving Day, setting the stage for Championship Sunday.
Here are 3 things to know going into Round 3.
Saturday at the U.S. Women’s Open is all about giving yourself a chance to win on Sunday. Part of the genius of Pebble Beach is how lavishly good shots are rewarded, while errant efforts result in bogey – or worse. Of course, the pressure on the weekend intensifies for the leaders, and a competitor who can muster a 68 – so far the low score produced during any of the first two days – can rapidly move up the leader board.
Major championship winner Jiyai Shin (144) and 2015 Women’s Open champ In Geee Chun (144) are among those who go out early on Saturday with a chance to move into contention. Also positioned with a chance to make a move are Amy Yang (145), who owns seven top-10 Women’s Open finishes without a victory, and Leona Maguire (143).
And keep an eye on newly minted pro Rose Zhang, who is at 1-over-par 145, eight strokes off the lead. A low round on Saturday would do wonders for the two-time USGA champion.
Bailey Tardy has received more attention this week than in the entire rest of her career combined. After finishing a second-round 68 that gave her the midway lead at 7-under-par 137, the 26-year-old LPGA Tour rookie did five different media interviews. It’s not likely she had such attention showered on her when she was an All-American at the University of Georgia.
Tardy, whose greatest success in a USGA championship was posting a 3-2 record in the 2016 Curtis Cup (a loss for the USA to Great Britain & Ireland), had qualified for three previous U.S. Women’s Opens as an amateur, missing the cut all three times. This time, the qualifier has made it to the weekend. And this time she is positioned to do much more than simply make the cut.
Nasa Hataoka, 24, has been down this road before. She knows all about contending in a major championship and she knows all about coming oh-so-close. In 2018, she was in a playoff in the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship at Kemper Lakes outside Chicago, which was won by 2017 U.S. Women’s Open champion Sung Hyun Park. And two years ago, Hataoka went extra holes with Yuka Saso before losing the U.S. Women’s Open at The Olympic Club in San Francisco.
Certainly, her résumé suggests that she has what it takes to win the biggest women’s events. She owns six LPGA Tour victories and a half-dozen more on the Japan LPGA. She also has five other top-10 finishes in majors, including a T-10 in the 2018 U.S. Women’s Open at Shoal Creek. One secret weapon is her caddie, Greg Johnston. He won four majors with Juli Inkster, including the U.S. Women’s Open in 1999 and 2002.
Ron Sirak is a Massachusetts-based freelance writer whose work has previously appeared on USGA websites.