Birdie Outburst Gives Meechai Lead at 79th U.S. Women’s Open Presented by Ally

By Ron Sirak

| May 31, 2024 | Lancaster, Pa.

Birdie Outburst Gives Meechai Lead at 79th U.S. Women’s Open Presented by Ally

One of the cool things about 72 holes of stroke-play championship golf is that each round is a learning experience, a reconnoitering of the course and gathering of information. What was learned about Lancaster Country Club on Thursday, when only four players managed to break par in the first round of the 79th U.S. Women’s Open Presented by Ally, was put to good use by many players on Friday.

While a sea of red numbers didn’t exactly wash over the leaderboard in the second round, there was more than Thursday’s trickle of red. On Saturday, nine players posted under-par rounds. Still, only four players are better than par after 36 holes with Wichanee Meechai on top at 4-under-par 136 and Andrea Lee sitting at 138.

Peeking over their shoulder are Minjee Lee and Yuka Saso at 139. Lee was among those who broke par in the second round, shooting a 69, while Saso followed her opening round 68 with a 71.

Andrea Lee posted a 69 that featured a 180-yard hole out from the fairway bunker on No. 1 for an eagle while Meechai’s brilliant 67, tied for the low round of the championship, was highlighted by four consecutive birdies to start her second round.

The weather conditions were a tad easier on Friday, which also helped scoring.

“This morning we didn't have as much wind, so it was a little easier to club here and there,” said Minjee Lee, a two-time USGA champion. “But come the back nine, it was starting to get a little more windy. It was a little more similar to yesterday afternoon. I love playing U.S. Opens. I love the challenge. I love the difficulty. I just love that I really need to think about what I'm doing and be strategic.”

Minjee Lee

Minjee Lee plays her tee shot on the 17th hole during the second round of the 2024 U.S. Women's Open Presented by Ally at Lancaster Country Club. (Logan Whitton/USGA)

Both Andrea Lee and Meechai gave strokes back after their bursts of brilliance, but both are extremely well positioned going into the weekend.

Meechai, a 31-year-old from Thailand who has won on several Asian tours, never needed to make a putt longer than 6 feet in running off her four consecutive birdies as her iron game was completely dialed in. This is Meechai’s fourth U.S. Women’s Open with her best finish T-30 at Olympic Club in 2021.

Andrea Lee, a two-time Curtis Cup team member for the United States and semifinalist in the 2019 U.S. Women’s Amateur, followed the eagle on No. 1 – her tenth hole of the day – with three consecutive birdies, all from within 10 feet.

Sitting at 141 are 15-year-old Asterisk Talley, a member of the inaugural U.S. National Development Team, reigning U.S. Women’s Amateur champion, Megan Schofill, Hinako Shibuno, Wei-Ling Hsu, Jin Hee Im, Sakura Koiwai, Chisato Iwai and Mi Hyang Lee, whose 67 matched Meechai for the low round of the tournament so far.

Among those who missed the cut set at 8-over-par 148 was Lexi Thompson, who was playing in her 18th consecutive U.S. Women’s Open. She finished at 153.

“To see all the fans out there and just to hear their chants and ‘go Lexi’s’ made me smile every single shot even if I kept on bogeying,” said Thompson, who announced on Tuesday that she’s stepping away from full-time competitive golf at the end of the year. “But it was a special week for sure. This is where my whole dream got started when I was 12,” she said about the U.S. Women’s Open.

Lexi Thompson

Lexi Thompson waits on the fifth hole during the second round of the 2024 U.S. Women's Open Presented by Ally at Lancaster Country Club. (Chris Keane/USGA)

Also missing the cut were USGA champions Ariya Jutanugarn, Rose Zhang and In Gee Chun, who won the U.S. Women’s Open at Lancaster Country Club in 2015, along with LPGA Tour major champions Nelly Korda and Brooke Henderson.

Korda made three birdies in a row beginning at No. 6 and saved par on No. 12 – the par-3 on which she made 10 in the opening round – with a 20-foot putt after missing the creek by inches with her tee shot. But her spirited bid to bounce back from her opening-round 80 fell short as her 70 left her at 150, outside the cut line.

Stroke play golf is all about jockeying for position. Now those who made the cut have a chance to make the most of Moving Day and get within striking distance to make a run at the championship in Sunday’s final round. And all those who made the cut go into the weekend at the U.S. Women’s Open with this knowledge they have gleaned from their experiences here so far: Lancaster Country Club is as stern of a test as championship golf could ask for.

Ron Sirak is a Massachusetts-based freelance writer.