Skip to content

Minjee Lee's 66 forges 3-way tie at U.S. Women's Open

Sarah Stier / Getty Images Sport / Getty

LANCASTER, Pa. (AP) — One shot put two-time major champion Minjee Lee right in the mix Saturday in the U.S. Women's Open, and she surged her way to a 4-under 66 that gave her a share of the lead with Stanford alum Andrea Lee and Wichanee Meechai.

Andrea Lee overcame a few mistakes early that left her three shots behind at one point. She was bogey-free on the tougher back nine for a 67. Meechai, the only player to reach 6-under par at any point this week, twice saved par on the closing three holes for a 69.

They were at 5-under 205.

Nelly Korda and other big stars in women's golf were long gone from Lancaster Country Club. Left behind was a tremendous give-and-take among five players who remained under par.

Minjee Lee was four shots behind and going nowhere until she hit her approach to 2 feet for eagle on the par-5 seventh hole. Equally impressive was her tee shot to a scary front left pin on the notorious par-3 12th hole to 3 feet for birdie.

Her 66 matched the low score of the tournament. Former Women's British Open champion Hinako Shibuno had seven birdies Saturday for a 66 that left her only two shots behind.

The other player under par was former Women's Open champion Yuka Saso. She was within one shot of the lead until dropping two shots over the final four holes. It might have been worse except for a bold flop shot over a bunker to a tight pin on the 17th that set up a most unlikely par save. Saso shot 69.

Everyone else was over par, and Lancaster Country Club isn't the track that allows for big charges. It's more hang on for dear life, particularly in a final round at a U.S. Open.

Saturday was different, and Minjee Lee felt that might be the case.

“It's moving day, and I thought there would be quite a few opportunities for birdies,” she said. “Knowing the USGA, they put a couple of the tees up. I thought the setup was great for a Saturday. I'm really looking forward to tomorrow.”

She would know what to expect having won her second major at the U.S. Women's Open two years ago at Pine Needles when she won by four shots.

Now it's crowded at the top.

Meechai — she goes by “Jan” when playing in America — is the most unlikely contender. Her only victory in a tournament recognized by the women's world ranking was on the Taiwan LPGA nine years ago. She is No. 158 in the world ranking.

She looked impervious to the nerves of the biggest event in women's golf, even after her group (with Andrea Lee) was given a warning for slow play.

Andrea Lee, who started two shots behind, opened with a 25-foot birdie putt. Meechai followed her in from just outside 20 feet. The 31-year-old Thai also drilled an iron onto the green at the seventh to set up a two-putt birdie that put her at 6 under.

But she dropped two shots on the back nine, only to deliver a beauty with an 8-iron on the 15th, just enough right-to-left movement on her shot that it rode the slope of the green to 3 feet that put her in the lead.

That only lasted long enough for Minjee Lee to hole an 18-foot birdie putt on the short par-4 16th, after laying back off the tee with a 5-iron. And then Andrea Lee came through on the 16th with a shot into 3 feet to join them.

At stake is a $2.4 million payoff to the winner, by far the largest in women's golf. Lancaster has had huge galleries all week, just like in 2015, and the stage might feel even bigger.

Three of the contenders under par are former major champions. Andrea Lee was a decorated amateur who has one LPGA victory. Meechai might be the most honest about her chances.

She is staying in a house by herself — it was rented by a Thai player who didn't qualify — and thought the house might be haunted. “If they have a ghost in the house, I think the ghost likes me,” she said Friday.

And then she told of waking up at 3 a.m. ahead her third round. She said she had been dreaming of the U.S. Women's Open.

“I think it's in my mind, very deep in there,” she said. “I don't think I can get rid of it. I'm trying to get along with it. I hope it works.”

Saturday was still tough enough for 15-year-old Asterisk Talley, the youngest player in the field and a high school freshman playing in the third-to-last group. She shot 78 to fall out of contention, going from five shots behind to 14 shots out of the lead.

Daily Newsletter

Get the latest trending sports news daily in your inbox