Annika Sorenstam, a retired Swedish golfer, and Michelle Wie West, a former teenage sensation in women’s golf, shared a touching moment as they hugged on the 18th fairway at Pebble Beach during their farewell to the U.S. Women’s Open. While these two golf icons said their goodbyes, another golfer, Bailey Tardy, was just beginning to make her mark in the sport.
Tardy, a 26-year-old rookie on the LPGA tour, chose the perfect time and place to showcase her skills. After making an eagle on the sixth hole for the second consecutive day, she continued to play well and finished with an impressive 4-under 68, giving her a two-shot lead. This performance is a significant achievement for Tardy, who has struggled to make an impact in her rookie season, failing to finish in the top 20 and only making four cuts. Now, she finds herself leading the field at the most prestigious event in women’s golf.
Tardy’s success can partially be attributed to her early tee time, which allowed her to play before the wind picked up and made the course more challenging. She took advantage of the favorable conditions and managed to maintain her composure in the face of the increasing wind. With a score of 7-under 137, Tardy is among the six players who remain under par heading into the weekend, where even stronger winds are expected to test their skills. Only Nasa Hataoka, who played during the windy afternoon, faced the full force of the gusts and shot a 74.
While Tardy took the spotlight, another golfer who captured attention was Rose Zhang. After initially being grateful for making the cut, Zhang performed well in the morning and her score of 1-over 145 put her in a tie for 10th place.
However, the focus of the tournament shifted to two players who had no chance of advancing to the weekend. Annika Sorenstam, a three-time Women’s Open champion, accepted the invitation to play in the tournament despite being retired since 2008. It ended up being a bittersweet experience as she finished with a 79, including a double bogey on the final hole. Michelle Wie West, known for her fearless decision-making and her Women’s Open title, also missed the cut but maintained a positive attitude, hoping that her legacy would inspire young girls to pursue their dreams.
Among the unexpected surprises were the early departures of top-ranked players Jin Young Ko, Lilia Vu, and Lexi Thompson. Ko, the world number one, missed a birdie putt on the 18th hole, leading to an unfortunate cut. Vu, the winner of the first LPGA major of the year, struggled and shot a disappointing 79-82. Thompson, known for her success on the golf course, had a difficult round with two double bogeys and no birdies, resulting in a score of 79.
As the weekend approaches, a diverse group of golfers will take center stage, with many vying for their first major victory and others simply hoping to win for the first time. Bailey Tardy, who currently ranks 455th in the world, is confident in her abilities and believes she has what it takes to compete with the best. Her only professional victory came two years ago on the LPGA’s developmental tour, but now she finds herself leading at the U.S. Women’s Open.
Despite trailing behind, prominent players like Nelly Korda and Lydia Ko still have an opportunity to make a comeback. Korda, currently ranked second, made the cut by a narrow margin and faces a daunting task as she trails by 12 shots. Ko, ranked third, struggled on one hole but played solid golf overall.
Tardy’s journey to the LPGA Tour hasn’t been easy, and she has narrowly missed out on crucial opportunities in the past. However, her familiarity with Pebble Beach, having played there for fun in the past, has proven beneficial during this tournament. Tardy understands the secrets to scoring well in windy conditions and has taken advantage of the easier holes in the first seven to put herself in a strong position. Despite a minor hiccup on the back nine with a long three-putt on the 14th hole, Tardy remains optimistic and believes she has what it takes to compete at this level.
Another golfer who faced a setback during the tournament was Leona Maguire. After a promising start, Maguire experienced a difficult stretch on the front nine, dropping four shots in five holes. Nevertheless, she remains in contention, trailing Tardy by six shots.
Finally, Rose Zhang, despite being eight shots behind the leader, is determined to make a comeback and has her eyes set on a strong finish. With 36 holes left to play, Zhang remains hopeful and aims to hit more fairways and greens, which would give her more birdie opportunities and a chance to climb up the leaderboard.
As the U.S. Women’s Open continues, Bailey Tardy will look to build on her impressive start and hold off challengers. With formidable competitors still in the mix, the tournament promises to be an exciting battle as players pursue the ultimate prize in women’s golf.