Wichanee Meechai leads U.S. Women’s Open as Nelly Korda misses cut

Wichanee Meechai of Thailand kicked off her round with four straight birdies before signing for a 3-under 67 and taking a two-shot lead into the weekend at the U.S. Women’s Open on Friday at Lancaster (Pa.) Country Club.

Meechai is 4-under 136 at the midway point of the major championship, one of only four players under par. Andrea Lee shot her second consecutive 69 to sit in second place at 2 under. Former U.S. Women’s Open champions Minjee Lee of Australia (69 on Friday) and Yuka Saso of Japan (71) are tied for third place at 1 under.

They’re all looking up at Meechai, a 31-year-old ranked 158th in the world who has never won in the United States.

“To be honest, before the tee time, I was so nervous,” Meechai said. “I just talked to my manager, like my hands just shaking, my brain just stop working. But trying to commit to the shot. I know that the course is hard; just go with the flow probably. That’s my point, and just have fun.”

Meechai began her round on the back nine and dialed up a tight approach shot 6 feet of the cup at the par-4 10th hole. She one-upped herself at the par-4 11th, landing her second shot inside 5 feet. Then came a 5-foot birdie putt at the par-3 12th and another at the par-5 13th.

“To be honest, I don’t know who she is the first four holes, but I’m glad that she came,” Meechai joked.

She cooled off and bogeyed three holes before getting back on the birdie train at the par-4 fourth. Her final birdie was a 9-foot putt at the par-3 eighth — her longest birdie putt of the day.

Lee also started on the back nine, playing it in 2-over 37 before a hot streak of her own.

The 25-year-old Californian hit out of a fairway bunker at the par-4 first and watched her ball roll from right to left up the green, finding the pin and dropping for an unlikely eagle.

“Pulled my driver off the tee but had a pretty good lie in the bunker, so I knew if I just hit it solid and got it up anywhere on the green I could two-putt and make a par,” Lee said. “As soon as I hit it, I knew it was a good shot. I saw it kind of land in the front portion of the green and then I saw it trickle from there. I looked away and I was like, it’s on the green, it’s fine.”

It gave her a shot of momentum and she birdied the next three holes to get to 4 under for the week, but a pair of late bogeys brought her back.

Saso, the 18-hole leader and 2021 U.S. Women’s Open champ, had two birdies to three bogeys on Friday. Minjee Lee, who won in 2022, had two birdies and two bogeys on the back nine (her first nine) and came home strong, with a birdie and eight pars on the front nine.

“There’s definitely higher scores out there. Pars and birdies feel like gold right now,” Lee said.

Amateurs Megan Schofill and Asterisk Talley are part of a large tie for fifth at 1 over. Talley, a 15-year-old high school freshman, is the youngest player in the field yet she’s having a better week than many of the best golfers in the world.

“I feel like my expectations were to at least make the cut,” Talley said. “That’s what I wanted to do. Then if I achieved that, I wanted to get low amateur. But I feel like that’s still achievable even after today’s round.”

The most notable player to miss the 8-over cut line was World No. 1 Nelly Korda, who followed Thursday’s disastrous 80 with an even-par 70 to miss the weekend by two shots.

“There’s not many low scores out here, and I was pretty far back,” Korda said. “Tried to give it my all. That’s what I do with every round. I had nothing to lose, so that was kind of like the mentality. Just go for it.”

Former champions Brittany Lang (9 over), Thailand’s Ariya Jutanugarn (10 over), In Gee Chun of South Korea (12 over) and Allisen Corpuz (12 over) also missed the cut. Chun won in 2015 the last time the major was held at Lancaster, while Corpuz was the defending champion.

–Field Level Media