Wichanee Meechai Shines in Lancaster to Top US Womens Open ...

1 Jun 2024
Wichanee Meechai of Thailand acknowledges the fans after a putt during the second round of the U.S. Women's Open Presented by Ally at Lancaster Country Club on May 31, 2024 in Lancaster, Pennsylvania.

Photo Credit: 2024 Getty Images

Lpga U.S Open - Figure 1
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Written By: LPGA Communications @LPGA

With only four players under par at the U.S. Women’s Open presented by Ally through 36 holes, it was Rolex Women’s World Golf Rankings No. 158 Wichanee Meechai who overcame nervous energy on Friday to head into the weekend with a two-shot lead at 4-under. Meechai, who has five professional wins globally, is looking to be the 23rd player to become a first-time LPGA Tour winner at the U.S. Women’s Open as she holds her second-ever post-round lead of any kind at Lancaster Country Club.

“To be honest, I don't know who she was the first four holes, but I'm glad that she came,” said Meechai, who got into golf through her dad, a tournament director on an overseas professional tour. “I just know myself that I'm so nervous, I have adrenaline. The first four holes, I just picked the club that's shorter and hit it hard. I think it worked well with this course probably because you cannot be too aggressive with that, and I'm pretty close to the pin, and my putt was just pretty good this week, I think. I'm just like surprised, as well.”

Meechai, was on fire out of the gate, carding four consecutive birdies on her first four holes from 10 to 14. Her adrenaline then got the best of her, and her hot streak cooled after making three bogeys in her next eight holes. She regrouped after that stretch, making a rebound birdie on No. 4 thanks to a perfect six-foot opportunity that was the result of a 98-yard approach shot. Meechai made her sixth and final birdie during the second round on the par-3, 8th hole, hitting her 171-yard tee shot to eight feet.

“Trying to be patient on this course is the key for me because, even though you hit on the green, you can three-putt very easily if you're on the wrong spots, something like that.” said Meechai, who currently ranks second in the field in strokes gained approach (+2.86). “I'm just trying to be patient, and if I can get birdies, I will go for it.”

She’ll be facing off against some new and major-tested players, the closest to her being Andrea Lee at -2 overall after a 1-under 69 in the second round. Lee made her first birdie of the day on No. 11 after hitting her approach shot to 15 feet, but she stunted her momentum with a double bogey on the challenging par-3 12th hole after finding the water short of the green off the tee and proceeding to three-putt. After another bogey on 15, Lee found a bright spot as soon as she made the turn, holing one of the premier shots of this year’s championship from 180 yards for eagle on her 10th hole of the round (No. 1). One explosive cheer and celebration later, Lee put her foot on the gas pedal, making birdies on the next three par 4s (holes 2-4).

Lpga U.S Open - Figure 2
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Lee made two more bogeys before a crucial par save on her last hole of the round, making a 15-foot putt on No. 9, to remain the closest to Meechai’s lead with a major opportunity still ahead of her. “I had to figure out what works best for me and not look at the top players in the world, what they were doing, and just focus on me. My mental game has gotten a lot better. I'm able to stay really patient and positive out there instead of getting so down and frustrated, which is what I used to do in the past,” said Lee on what has readied her for this position at a major championship. “I think overall, I'm just getting better at doing that, and it's been nice to see some good results so far this year.”

The 2021 and 2022 U.S. Women’s Open champions, Yuka Saso and Minjee Lee, are tied for third at 1-under, with both looking to pad their major resumes over the weekend at Lancaster Country Club. Lee shot a 1-under 69 on Friday that included birdies on the par-4 5th, par-3 12th and par-5 13th holes, but she was brought back to Earth after bogeys on 17 and 18, ultimately falling into a tie for third with her good friend Saso. Eight players sit in a tie for fifth, including 2019 AIG Women’s Open champion Hinako Shibuno and amateurs Asterisk Talley and Megan Schofill.

There were 75 players who made the cut on the number at 8-over, including 2023 Epson Tour Player of the Year Gabriela Ruffels, whose string of birdies on holes three through five on her back nine lifted her to the weekend in a round that also included six bogeys. Notables to miss the cut include Rolex Rankings No. 1 Nelly Korda, two-time LPGA Tour winner Rose Zhang and defending champion Allisen Corpuz, as well as major champions Brooke Henderson and Patty Tavatanakit. Eighteen-time U.S. Women’s Open participant, Lexi Thompson, will also miss playing the final 36 holes in Pennsylvania.

Korda battled to make the weekend in the second round. After a bogey on the first, the 25-year-old's momentum kicked in with three straight birdies on holes six, seven and eight before she made another troubling bogey on the par-4 9th hole. On 10, Korda made a crucial par save from seven feet to reset heading into her final eight holes. The golf gods eventually gave one back to Nelly on No. 12, a par that was seven shots better than her 10 on the hole on Friday. Her tee shot carried the water by about two feet before bouncing back, sticking in the rough just mere inches from the same water that her ball found three times the day before. She stabbed at the ensuing chip, then watched the ball fall after her 20-foot par putt found the bottom of the hole. It ultimately wasn’t enough, as Korda finished at 10-over, capping off her even-par 70 with a bogey on the 18th.

Thompson, who announced her retirement from full-time play at the beginning of the week, closed with a second-round 75 to leave Lancaster at +13 overall. “I know when I teed it up first at Pine Needles, that's where I wanted to be and playing against the best. To continue to do so and to be playing in my 18th, even though it wasn't the way I wanted to end it, it was always special every time I teed it up in a USGA event,” said Thompson. “I cherished every moment that I had.”

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