Miami: Japan’s Mamiko Higa birdied her final hole in fading light to maintain her lead at the US Women’s Open where the second round was delayed for two hours due to thunderstorms and then suspended because of darkness.
The 25-year-old Higa, who is ranked 49th in the world, kept a one-stroke lead from the first round when she shot the lowest debut round in tournament history with a six-under 65.
“I was really happy because I could finish up a tough day with a birdie,” said Higa. “I was so happy.” Higa rolled in a birdie on the par-five ninth hole Friday for an even-par 71 and a two-round total of six under 136 to lead American Jessica Korda, who shot a bogey-free three-under 68.
There were 45 players still on the Country Club course in Charleston, North Carolina when play was suspended. The players had to endure a two hour weather delay which included lightning striking a large elm tree along the 18th fairway. There were several people standing nearby when the bolt hit but no one was injured.
Higa is the first Japanese player to lead the tournament since 2011 when Mika Miyazato shot a 67 to top the leaderboard heading into the weekend.
Gina Kim, who shot a 72, and Celine Boutier, who was at four under on the tournament with four holes to go in her round, are tied for third.
Several of the Tour’s top players are just a couple strokes back of Higa, including Aussie Lee Min-jee (69) and two time US Women’s Open winner Park In-bee (70), who are both at two under.
World number eight and the top ranked American Lexi Thompson is at three under overall with two holes to go.
Higa struggled with four birdies and four bogeys in a mixed round on Friday. She made consecutive bogeys to start her back nine but recovered with back-to-back birdies on the holes No. 4 and 5 before adding another birdie on the par-five No. 9.
Korda, who was one of the early starters, also began on the back nine. Her round featured birdies on two of the three par fives and another the par-three 17th.
Korda is seeking her first major championship win but said she is going to need some luck.
“That’s what you play for,” said Korda. “At the same time, I feel a lot of luck is always a big part of winning a major championship, making the most putts and the least amount of mistakes.
“It’s really hard to win out here. I think everybody can see that, watching us week in week out.
Solid golf will always put me up top. If I have a chance, I’ll try to take it.” Among those left to finish Saturday are defending champion Ariya Jutanugarn of Thailand, who is two over with two holes to go.
Nelly Korda, the sister of Jessica, is at three under overall and tied for fifth with three holes to play in the second round.