The old saw in stroke play is that you can’t win it on Thursday but you sure can lose it. For those who got into red numbers in the opening round of the 74th U.S. Women’s Open, Friday is an opportunity to grab a late tee time on the weekend. For those disappointed with their initial effort, the second round is a chance to get back in the mix.
If Thursday is any indication, the morning is the time to make hay at the Country Club of Charleston. And that could mean a real tightening of the field after Friday’s cut. Those currently at the top will be playing in the most difficult conditions in the second round while those who need to move up will have that opportunity.
Here are three things to know going into the second round.
Sei Young Kim’s Quest
Sei Young Kim, who picked up her eighth LPGA win earlier this year, is lugging around that dubious distinction of being the best without a major. No one in the field at the 74th U.S Women’s Open has more LPGA victories than Kim without a major championship. Her opening-round 68 on Thursday at the Country Club of Charleston has her just three strokes off the lead.
Kim’s best finish in the Women’s Open is T-8 in 2017 and even though she has made the cut all five times she’s played, her next-best finish is T-26. She’s certainly had her chances in other majors with six top-five efforts, including T-2 at last year’s Evian Championship and second at the 2015 Women’s PGA.
“The U.S. Women's Open has been one I've really wanted to win,” Kim said after she got as low as 5 under par before making bogey on two of the last three holes. “But I haven't been able to see the good results yet.”
Morning vs. Afternoon
The story of the opening round at the U.S. Women’s Open was told in the numbers on the leader board, both in relationship to par and in relationship to time. Most of the leaders posted scores early in the day, including leader Mamiko Higa, Esther Henseleit, Celine Boutier and Sei Young Kim. Only three of the top 13 players (Gina Kim, Azahara Munoz and Jessica Korda) played in the afternoon wave.
And the statistics showed a stark difference between those in the morning wave at the Country Club of Charleston and those in the afternoon wave. The course played to a stroke average of 73.72 overall, but the average was 2.5 strokes lower for the morning wave than the afternoon wave (72.7 in the a.m., 75.2 in the p.m.), as the breezes picked up appreciably, with gusts reaching 25 miles an hour.
It will be interesting to see if that trend holds up on Friday.
Sleeping on the Lead
Part of the challenge of a USGA championship is the anxiety of waiting for the competition to begin. Four of the top finishers in the first round of the U.S. Women’s Open were able to get right at it in Thursday’s first round, thanks to morning tee times. But on Friday the four will have to play the waiting game.
Mamiko Higa, who leads with a six-under-par 65, tees off at 1:18 p.m. in the second round. Esther Henseleit, tied for second place with a 66, goes at 2:24; Celine Boutier will take her 67 back out onto the Country Club of Charleston at the same time but on No. 1 tee, while Henseleit starts on No. 10. And Sei Young Kim, tied for fifth place with a 68, tees off at 2:02.
Asked if playing early on Thursday helped, Boutier said: “I think so.” As for playing in the afternoon, she said: “I think maybe the greens are going to be a little harder because they're going to be more firm.”
There’s that, and then there is sitting around waiting to play, which can be a nerve-rattling experience.
Ron Sirak is a Massachusetts-based freelance writer who frequently contributes to USGA digital channels.