Yang hopes to close at Women's Open

By Dan O'Neill
Published on
Yang hopes to close at Women's Open

LANCASTER, Pa. -- A perfect Pennsylvania day at the U.S. Women's Open afforded Amy Yang a perfect chance to change her profile.

Yang has been all over this championship in the past few years. She had a 54-hole lead last year at Pinehurst, then shot a 74 and finished fourth. She was second after 54 holes in 2012, also second in the end. She was third after 54 holes in 2010 and finished fifth.

Yang is 25 years old now, with two LPGA Tour wins under her belt, with high regard for her game. She is still seeking her first major, still trying to finish off this championship. And she has assumed the position once more.

The storms that interrupted the first round subsided at Lancaster Country Club on Friday. The sun shined, temperatures were pleasant and Yang was spectacular.

With a sizzling 4-under-par 66, she came within a stroke (133) of tying the 36-hole scoring record of 132 and moved to 7 under for the championship.

"I just enjoy it out here," said the South Korean, who is still improving her English. "I know the golf courses are very tough. I make sure I stay patient on the course. I just enjoy it."

With Stacy Lewis bogeying her final hole, Yang's lead grew to three shots before the two pair up for Round 3. Japanese veteran Shiho Oyama (66) joined Lewis at 4 under late in the day and also sits three back. Former Vanderbilt star Marina Alex (71) is four back at 3 under and will play the third round with Oyama.

Inbee Park, Karrie Webb and Morgan Pressel are among six at 2-under, a stroke further removed. Park and Webb both have two Women's Open wins. Pressel also has a major, the 2007 ADA Inspiration.

Yang is trying to get there. To that end, she embraced a new coach recently in Tony Ziegler, son of St. Louis native and former PGA Tour player Larry Ziegler. It's been good mojo. Yang won the Honda LPGA Thailand earlier this season and has been rock-solid at Lancaster.

She has hit 23 of 28 fairways and 28 of 36 greens. While some players have had a difficulty figuring out deliberate greens, Yang has 28 and 29 putts respectively in her rounds.

"I'm hitting it very solid throughout the week," Yang said. "It's important to keep the ball in the fairways. Putting is a little slow and soft. But I make sure I practice before."

Tony Ziegler runs a golf school in Orlando, Fla. He isn't with Yang in Lancaster this week. That's what is different about her -- he doesn't need to be.

"She just understands her golf swing better, that's the bottom line," Ziegler said, by phone. "She's always been a good ball-striker; she's always been a great player. But now she understands her golf swing, what her problems are and what she has to do to fix them.

"She's always been told what she did wrong, but she didn't really know why she did it wrong. Now she knows. She can make adjustments. She can be her own coach."

The question is, can she do it over the weekend? Can Yang finish the job at a Women's Open?

"Absolutely," Ziegler added. "She's a top-ranked player. She just has to keep her composure, keep doing what she's doing and she'll be fine."

She's likely to have company along the way. Lewis has played her past 24 Lancaster holes at 6-under, which is deceivingly poor in terms of her ball-striking. She has been among a number of players to struggle on the greens, using 31 strokes in each round, and missing several chances for birdies Friday.

"These greens are just so tough with the speed of them versus the amount of slope," Lewis said. "It's just really hard to get it just perfect."

Lewis has not won this year, despite eight top-10s in 14 starts. She has never won the Women's Open, finishing second last year, tying for third in 2008. But with 11 LPGA career wins to her credit, including two majors, she knows the way.

"Staying patient, not trying to get ahead of yourself," Lewis, 30, said, "I think at any major that's what it is, especially (since) Amy's three shots ahead. So you just try not to force anything. When you're a couple back of the lead at a normal tournament you can think, 'Let's go and try to make some birdies.'

"But here, you just can't try to make birdies. You've got to try to hit good shots and that's what I need to keep telling myself tomorrow."

Like Lewis, Park has played better than she has scored. The No. 1-ranked player has steady rounds of 68-70 to stay close. But she also had 31 second-round putts. USGA championship greens are supposed to run like St. Louis Cardinals outfielder Peter Bourjos. The spongy surfaces at Lancaster are running like Ken Reitz.

Then again, as Roseanne Rosannadanna used to say, "It's always something -- if it ain't one thing, it's another." During the U.S. Open at Chambers Bay, players complained the greens were too dry and crusty. At the Women's Open, the complaints are just the opposite.

"It's really tricky and it really gets me all the time," said Park, who won in 2008 and 2013. "Every time I stood over it and I know this is the U.S. Open, I just keep leaving it short. And it's disappointing, because it just stops just in front of the edge.

"If I had more speed, I would have made more putts today. I think everybody is making the same mistake here."

Well, not everybody. Not Amy Yang .

This article was written by Dan O'Neill from St. Louis Post-Dispatch and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.