Pace battles and makes it into US Women’s Open weekend action

South African Women’s Open champion Lee-Anne Pace fought her way back into the US Women’s Open on Friday with a second-round level-par 71 to be the only one of three South Africans to make it into the weekend of the major championship.

After opening with a five-over 76 on Thursday, things didn’t look too promising for the 40-year-old from Paarl, but, on the tough Lake Course at the Olympic Club in San Francisco, she held things together with three birdies and three bogeys to slip into a share of 47th at the halfway mark, 10 strokes behind leader Yuka Saso of the Philippines.

In difficult conditions – it was cold, foggy and drizzling – Pace started off with consecutive bogeys on the first and second holes to slip to seven-over for the tournament. But she tidied things up considerably over the remainder of the front nine, with three birdies on five, seven and nine seeing her turn one-under for the round. She dropped another shot on the 10th, but held things together for the remainder of her round on a day on which only 20 of the 156-player field were under par.

Ashleigh Buhai added a second-round 75 to her opening 74 to miss the cut by one with her seven-over-par 36-hole total. Nicole Garcia had a torrid time of it in the weather, with her second round of 87 condemning her to 25-over for her US Women’s Open.

Saso followed her first-round 69 with a brilliant four-under 67, tied for the second-lowest round of the day, with six birdies and two bogeys, and moved to the top of the leaderboard. If she goes on to win on Sunday, she won’t quite make history as the youngest US Women’s Open champion of all time. What she would go on to do, however, might be even more difficult to believe. On Sunday, Saso will be 19 years, 11 months and 17 days old. The only teenager to win the US Women’s Open was Inbee Park in 2008. Her age? Exactly 19 years, 11 months and 17 days old.

For Pace, victory seems an unlikely proposition, but she can take some comfort in her solid second round and some confidence that she can still climb the leaderboard ahead of the conclusion of the tournament. Three of the last five champions were exactly seven strokes off the lead entering the weekend, including A Lim Kim in 2020. The last 36-hole leader or co-leader to win this championship was Michelle Wie West in 2014. That being said, 74 percent of winners since 1990 have been inside the top 10 through two rounds.

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