There’s only one word standing between Minjee Lee and a super prominent position on the US Women’s Open leaderboard – “others”.
On a second day in which two hours were lost to dangerous weather, Lee scooted up the final hole in near darkness to be the last player to complete her round – a fine two-under-par 69 that left her tied ninth at two under and just four from the halfway lead.
With 45 players still to complete their second rounds, it’s likely the cut will be three over, but could yet sneak out to four over. This effectively seals the fate of four of the seven Aussie women, with Melbourne amateur Gabi Ruffels the only one who’ll have to resume early on day three.
Ruffels is eight over with five holes to play, alongside dual champion Karrie Webb who has finished on the same score.
Sarah Kemp (+6) and Su Oh (+5) will also miss the weekend action.
Katherine Kirk made a bogey up the last hole, but had already done enough to advance at three over, while one of the day’s best rounds belonged to US Open debutant Hannah Green, whose 68 brought her through the field to finish at two over on the back of five excellent birdies.
But the Aussie hopes are again likely to rest with Lee, the world No.2 who was breathtaking at times in her second round in racking up seven birdies.
And while there were two other bogeys in an entertaining round for the young West Australian, there was one blemish that kept her from an even bigger charge than her otherwise fine 69.
Lee, whose trademark is generally her consistency, found herself in a rare and unwanted position – the “others” column on the USGA stats sheet that records scores on each hole.
The Royal Fremantle member’s tee shot on the Country Club of Charleston’s signature 144m 11th hole came up short.
From there, things quickly snowballed and after her second and third shots rolled back to her feet after failing to overcome the false front protecting the pin, her fourth found the putting surface, but too far away to make five and much of her good work was undone with a triple-bogey from almost nowhere.
Remarkably, the 11th, reachable with a short-to-mid iron, is playing easily the hardest hole on the course – an unlikely half shot over par on average for the field. Incredibly, it was played 75 over par on day two alone, with 45 bogeys, 12 double-bogeys and five dreaded “others” against just nine birdies in the 156-strong field.
It was at that point the weather delay was enforced and it likely played into Lee’s hands as she came back out and immediately birdied the 12th and 13th holes to minimise the damage.
Lee made another bogey from nowhere on the long 15th, but regained that stroke with a stunning tee shot to the par-three 17th in fading light for her final birdie.
Japan’s Mamiko Higa birdied her final hole – the ninth – to restore her overnight lead at six under, one shot clear of Jessica Korda and two clear of amateur Gina Kim and Vic Open champion Celine Boutier.
A swag of big names are one ahead of Lee at three under, including Women’s Australian Open champ Nelly Korda and her fellow American Lexi Thompson who are both yet to complete their rounds.