Friday's golf: High school amateur holds clubhouse lead at US Women's Open

Associated Press

San Francisco — The calculus homework awaiting Megha Ganne might have to wait a couple more days to get done. The 17-year-old amateur has more pressing business this weekend at the U.S. Women’s Open.

Ganne followed up a strong opening round by shooting an even-par 71 in the second round at the Olympic Club on Friday and was tied for the clubhouse lead with Megan Khang after the morning groups at 4-under 138.

Megha Ganne waves after making her putt on the eighth green during the second round of the U.S. Women's Open golf tournament at The Olympic Club, Friday, June 4, 2021, in San Francisco.

The high school junior from New Jersey is aiming to become the first amateur to hold at least a share of the 36-hole lead at the U.S. Women’s Open since Carol Semple Thompson in 1978. She hopes that will buy her some extra time on that calculus homework and a shoutout on Twitter from New Jersey governor Phil Murphy could help her cause.

“I don’t know how I’m going to manage to fit that into my schedule in the next few days,” she said. “Hopefully, my teacher gives me a little bit more time to do that. It’s hard to balance both.”

Khang moved into a tie with Ganne by birdieing the par-5 17th. England’s Mel Reid shared the first-round lead with Ganne with a 67 and teed off in the afternoon.

“Each day is more exciting, more nerve-racking,” Khang said. “I like to look at it as embracing it because you can’t really shy away from it. You know it’s going to happen. It’s inevitable. I love these kind of feelings, and I definitely for sure know the course is going to give us its best and we’re going to have to give our best.”

Shanshan Feng of China was one back at 3 under after a 70, with Lexi Thompson and Inbee Park at 2 under at the Lake Course. Park shot a 69 for her record 25th career round under par at a U.S. Women’s Open, breaking a tie with Beth Daniel and Betsy King.

Ganne, who needed a playoff just to qualify for her second U.S. Women’s Open, got off to a bit of a slow start with her early morning tee time that brought San Francisco fog that made the course play even longer than usual. She started on the ninth hole and bogeyed Nos. 12 and 15 before getting on track with a nearly 20-foot birdie on the par-5 16th.

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After a second bogey at 18, she closed strong by making a long birdie on No. 1 and then another birdie on the par-4 seventh hole that she punctuated with a fist pump. She then spent her time waiting to hit her tee shot on her final hole repeatedly bouncing a ball on her club, showing few signs of nerves in front of a crowd much bigger than her usual ones as an amateur.

“That was the biggest gallery we’ve seen and she was unfazed by it,” said her father, Hari Ganne.

Ganne’s mother, Sudha, said her daughter has always enjoyed being on center stage ever since playing the role of the Queen of Hearts in an “Alice in Wonderland” play as a young child.

“I love it so much,” Megha Ganne said. “I wish every event I had a gallery watching me because it just makes me play better, I think. And I love being in the spotlight, so it’s been really fun.”

Ganne’s tee shot on her final hole went past the green but she managed to save par with a tricky 10-foot putt.

“It was a challenging putt,” she said. “I just wanted to get it started on line. On the hole before that I made a birdie, so I wasn’t too worried if I made a bogey on the last one, but I’m glad it fell.”

Defending champion A Lim Kim of South Korea followed up an opening 79 by shooting 70 on Friday and is in danger of missing the cut. Michelle Wie West, the 2014 champion, shot an 80 to go to 12 over and won’t play on the weekend.

American Sarah Burnham shot a 66 for the best round of the week and was even par.

PGA Tour

Dublin, Ohio — Patrick Cantlay finished his long day with some of his best golf, running off three straight birdies to close out a 5-under 67 and the lead Friday in the rain-delayed Memorial.

He arrived at Muirfield Village before dawn. He finished when it was time for dinner. And except for a few inevitable mistakes, he was solid in the 33 holes he faced.

“We're out there for such a long time today that you could fall asleep at the wheel a little bit,” said Cantlay, who won the Memorial two years ago. “So being cognizant of that and checking in with yourself — are you as focused as you can be? — I think is the key.”

Cantlay was at 8-under 136 on the refurbished Muirfield Village, where the rough is thicker and denser than usual and the rain that washed out nearly half of the opening round didn't help.

Scottie Scheffler recovered from three bogeys in his opening four holes to scratch out a 71 and was at 6-under 130 among those who completed the second round. They all had long days, having to finish most of the first round in the morning and 18 holes in the afternoon, with only about 30 minutes in between.

Collin Morikawa and Jon Rahm, both winners at Muirfield Village last year in different tournaments held in consecutive weeks, were among those who had to return Saturday morning.

Rahm was tied for the lead at 8 under through 13 holes, making a 2-foot birdie putt before darkness halted play. Morikawa was right there with him until a triple bogey on the 12th hole.

The tournament should be back on track in time for the final round Sunday.

Jordan Spieth had reason to wonder if his long day would lead to a short week. He had a hard time keeping his tee shots in play, meaning hacking out and trying to save par with his wedges. He was 5 over for his opening round when he fired an 8-iron into 8 feet for birdie and a 76.

He followed that with a 67 to reach 1-under 143. That was more than enough to make the cut and to at least still be in the mix.

“I needed something to stop the bleeding this morning,” Spieth said.

Spieth played with Cantlay and Bryson DeChambeau, and it didn't lack for excitement. Cantlay was playing great. DeChambeau was bothered by a few spectators calling him, “Brooksy,” a reference to his spat with Brooks Koepka, who isn't even at the Memorial.

Some spectators were removed. DeChambeau laughed it off later by saying it was “flattering.”

DeChambeau also was at 143 with three double bogeys on his card. One of them came in his second round on No. 1, when it took him four shots to get down from 80 feet off the front of the green. He also hit his second shot to 4 feet for eagle on the par-5 fifth hole.

“All in all, it's not my best,” DeChambeau said. “But certainly worked hard to get it in and here for the weekend.”

Despite the disjointed nature of the tournament, one constant as been the course. Several of the holes were redone — some obvious, such as the par-5 fifth and 15th hole, some more subtle with greens being shifted — and the rough has been brutal as ever.

The biggest change has been the par 5s. Some of it is because of the soft conditions, but players are not going for them in two as much as they once did.

Rory McIlroy went for the green on No. 5, landed just over the back into a bunker and did well to blast out to 20 feet.

“You would rather be 90 yards away hitting a nice wedge shot in there. You can get it way closer,” McIlroy said after a pair of 72s. “So I think people are just realizing you're probably more likely to make birdie just by laying up, which is a shame, because it's sort of exciting to get to go for par 5s. And it's sort of taken that a little bit out of play.”

If Cantlay's lead were to hold, it would be the highest score to lead after 36 holes at the Memorial since 2012, unusual only because rain leads to softer greens, and the best in the world thrive in those conditions.

Cantlay wonders if the difficulty of the par 5s hasn't changed the dynamics of scoring.

“But that’s just the way it is now and I’m sure if the fairways firm out a little bit you will be able to hit the ball a little further and maybe get to some of the par 5s,” he said.

For now, he's happy with his score. Cantlay hasn't had a top 10 since a tie for third at Pebble Beach, a stretch of seven tournaments. That's his longest streak without a top 10 since he returned from a severe back injury in 2017.

“Just fundamentals and getting my swing back to a place that I can start the ball where I’m looking all the time,” Cantlay said. “I wasn’t too far off, just a little off. So golf’s like that sometimes.”

PGA Tour Champions

Thongchai Jaidee closed with a birdie on the par-3 ninth for a 7-under 65 and a one-stroke lead Friday in the PGA Tour Champions' Principal Charity Classic.

Thongchai, the 51-year-old from Thailand making his fifth senior start, eagled the par-5 15th and had seven birdies and two bogeys at Wakonda Club.

“This golf course very tricky, you have to have a good tee shot and have a good iron and putting very well,” Thongchai said. “I love the golf course. Very challenging. Everything the condition is perfect. ... First time on golf course this week. It good thing for me, a golf course you have to think.”

Dicky Pride and Doug Barron were tied for second.

“I had a couple early decent shots that missed the greens and got them up-and-down,” said Pride, the Mitsubishi Electric Classic winner this month “Then just stayed patient. It’s the kind of golf course you can kind of press your luck on, so I tried to stay patient to give myself looks. Just nice and solid.”

Fred Couples was another stroke back at 67 with Rod Pampling, Jerry Kelly, Shane Bertsch, Tom Gillis and Tim Herron. Bernhard Langer, Jim Furyk and Kenny Perry topped the group at 68.

Couples played the course for the first time Friday.

“I hit the ball in the right spot, and when I was in trouble, made some good pars,” Couples said. “But it’s a tricky little course and I don’t know what the scores are like, but I’ll take my score today.”

Alex Cejka, coming off his second straight major victory last week in the Senior PGA Championship, opened with a 70.

Hall of Fame pitcher John Smoltz was disqualified for failing to sign his scorecard after a 73. Playing on a sponsor exemption, he was making his fourth start of the year and eighth overall on the tour.