By Andrew Both
SHOALCREEK, Ala. (Reuters) – Ariya Jutanugarn moved within three strokes of halfway leader Sarah Jane Smith as the second round of the U.S. Women’s Open was completed on Saturday.
The former world number one from Thailand was among half the field who returned at the crack of dawn following Friday’s long lightning delay.
Ariya had 10 holes left, and she picked up two birdies and one bogey to card a two-under-par 70 at Shoal Creek.
The Thai former number one was the only player to get anywhere near runaway leader Smith, who shot a five-under 67 on Friday to establish a commanding lead.
At 10-under 134, Smith is three strokes clear of her nearest challenger Ariya, and four in front of fellow Australian Su Oh, who also finished her round on Friday.
Second-placed Ariya said she was paying little attention to her position, instead just focussing on her own form.
“I’m not really thinking about my position but I’m really happy about my game right now,” she said.
“I’ve been trying to improve my short game and it’s getting better.”
She had reason to feel weary as she had set her alarm for 4 AM local time, after not realising that the morning resumption had been pushed back an hour from its originally scheduled time of 6:45 AM.
A large pack including former champions Michelle Wie and Park In-bee were tied for fourth at three under, which means Smith is seven strokes clear of everyone but Ariya and Oh.
Not only that, Smith, who is winless in 222 starts on the LPGA Tour, got to sleep in on Saturday while many of her rivals were up before dawn.
Officials scheduled the third round to begin within an hour of the completion of the second as they scrambled to get the championship back on track, still hopeful of completing 54 holes by day’s end.
The cut fell at four-over 148.
Among the casualties were no-longer defending champion Park Sung-hyun, who carded 76 77.
World number two Shanshan Feng of China also bowed out after shooting 78 74.
(Editing by Clare Fallon)