It wouldn't have been difficult envisioning Michelle Wie, Eun-Hee Ji and Se Ri Pak being grouped together near the top of the U.S. Women's Open leaderboard not that long ago.
Like, maybe last year.
Instead, none of the three top golfers was within a Pennsylvania Turnpike toll lane's length of the lead as the second round concluded Saturday and the third round began. That turnpike, by the way, cuts directly through the middle of Oakmont Country Club.
Wie needed 69 putts to get through her two rounds of 82-76-158, putting her 16-over during her worst performance in the event. She didn't come close to reaching the cut line of 10-over 152.
She might have been headed to a higher score in 2007, but withdrew early in the second round while she was 17 over par.
Wie led the U.S. Women's Open after three rounds at age 15 in 2005 and tied for third a year later, but hasn't made the cut since then.
She withdrew in '07, missed the cut in '08 and failed to qualify last year. Wie also hasn't placed in the Top 10 in a major since 2006, after doing so in seven of the first 11 majors she played.
Asked to assess her latest U.S. Women's Open, she said: "Complete fail." She hasn't had many grades like that at Stanford, where she has two years remaining.
Pak, the 1998 winner, also missed the cut after going 77-78-155. Ji, last year's winner at Saucon Valley in eastern Pennsylvania, extended her season-long struggles with a remade swing by barely making the cut at 152.
Obviously, some golfers couldn't regain their games after play was suspended by rain on Friday.
M.J. Hur, one shot off the lead at 1-under 70 following the first round, ballooned to a 10-over 81. Inbee Park, the youngest winner in tournament history at age 19 in 2008, also had a 70 in the first round only to fall out of contention with a second-round 78.
Five amateurs made the cut.
A PIRATE, SHE'S NOT: A blatant ploy to attract spectator support, or merely a merchandising tactic?
Sophie Gustafson wore a Pittsburgh Pirates logo on her cap and shirt as she concluded the second round Saturday, but she probably doesn't know much about Andrew McCutchen or Evan Meek. She's also never seen a Pirates game at PNC Park.
Gustafson is from Sweden, but that didn't prevent Major League Baseball from signing her to an endorsement contract. This weekend, she's a Pirates fan.
"I'm sponsored by Major League (Baseball), so I wear different teams in different cities," she said.
She's had the most success while wearing Giants gear.
NOT PLAYING LIKE A KID: Alexis Thompson, who recently turned pro at age 15, easily made the cut with rounds of 73 and 74, earning her a third-round pairing with Ai Miyazato and Jiyai Shin -- the two most recent world-ranked No. 1s until Cristie Kerr moved to the top.
Thompson, who likes being called Lexi, didn't have to go far to find a caddie. Father Scott Thompson is toting her bag.
QUICK CONVERSION: The USGA hastily shifted tee and pin locations for the third round after beginning the day with them where they were when play was halted Friday. Those locations must stay the same for all golfers in a round, even if that round is played over multiple days.
Some golfers barely left the course from early Saturday morning until early evening. Allison Fouch, for example, played a full 18-hole round Saturday morning after being in the last group to start, then was in the first group to tee off for the third round.
Her time between rounds: only a half-hour, barely enough time to swig a drink and eat a snack. It felt like her days at Michigan State playing tournaments.
"At least I didn't have to get warmed up again," Fouch said.
She wasn't fatigued by playing nearly 11 hours of golf almost without pause on one of America's most demanding courses, but by her third-round 80 that dropped her from 6 over par to 15 over. She had a 3-over 74 during her morning round.
"I just hit one bad shot after another," Fouch said. "I just couldn't get it going and compounded my errors. I three-putted and made a lot of mental mistakes. ... It beat me up. There were girls out here playing well and I didn't play well."
HEY, YOU AGAIN? Paula Creamer and Cristie Kerr were paired together in the third round for the second U.S. Women's Open in two years.
Last year, Kerr had a 1-over 72 en route to finishing tied for third, while Creamer played herself out of contention with a 79. She came back with a final round 69, but finished tied for sixth.