SOUTHAMPTON, N.Y. – Lizette Salas wanted more from her second round at the 68th U.S. Women's Open on Friday. Not a lot more, but a stroke or two shaved off an even-par 72 would have been nice.
Salas, though, was resigned to the score at a Sebonack Golf Club that was rounding into the stern test many expected it would be on Thursday, when it never quite materialized.
"I'm not as pleased with [the round] just because I was striking the ball very well," said Salas, 23, of Azusa, Calif., who remains solidly in contention with a 4-under 140 total. "At the same time you have to look at the bright side, and you have to take into effect the wind and the weather, how it's a completely different golf course.
"I was still hitting my targets and even though the putts didn't fall, I still was confident over every shot and I really wanted to make birdie on the last hole."
Salas instead had to be content with a nice up-and-down par save from the front greenside bunker on the 548-yard, par-5 18th hole.
"You just can't be too greedy out here," said Salas of a round that featured 13 greens hit in regulation and a disappointing 31 putts.
Salas opened with a bogey on the 383-yard, par-4 first hole, but moved deeper into red numbers with a pair of birdies at the 176-yard, par-3 seventh and 508-yard, par-5 eighth holes. Making the turn in 1 under, Salas slipped back to even for the day at the 434-yard, par-4 14th when she three-putted from the bottom of the two-shelf green.
As players made their way out in Friday's afternoon wave, Salas was tied for third, three shots back of clubhouse leader I.K. Kim, who shot a second-round 69, and two strokes behind Inbee Park, who had yet to tee off.
With afternoon winds off Peconic Bay expected to pick up and toughen Sebonack, Salas was cognizant that her even-par round might even improve her leader-board standing. First-round leader Ha-Neul Kim, for example, shot a 5-over 77 on Friday. Anna Nordqvist followed a 68 with a 2-over 74, and Paz Echeverria went from a 3-under 69 to a 10-over 82 on Friday.
"The 5-wood didn't come out of my bag today," said Salas in explaining how much of an effect the wind was having in the second round, despite the course playing only 6,594 yards — 46 yards more than on Thursday. "Not many short irons came out of my bag today. A lot of mid-irons, long-irons. You just had to take a conservative line on certain pin locations."
Playing in her third U.S. Women's Open as a professional, Salas is gaining a reputation as a player suited for these types of Open examinations. The past two years, Salas has been inside the top 10 after each of the first three rounds before tying for 15th in 2011 and 32nd a year ago.
"I think with the more experience I have and the more times I'm in that position, I can get used to that," said Salas after the first round. Salas, who has yet to win on the LPGA Tour, benefited from her experiences in a two-week stretch earlier this season. In the final grouping on Sunday at the season’s first major, the Kraft Nabisco Championship, she ballooned to a 79 and tied for 25th. At the following week's LPGA Lotte Championship, she shot a final-round, 10-under 62 to force a playoff, which she lost against Suzann Pettersen.
"I feel like anything can happen, but I feel like I'm much more prepared with my game and mentally,” said Salas. “So if it comes to the weekend and I'm in contention, I really believe I can manage my patience and manage my nerves a lot more than last year and the year before."
Stuart Hall is a North Carolina-based freelance writer whose work frequently appears on USGA championship websites.