The field has been cut from 120 to 52, with those at 12 over par or better earning a weekend tee time at NCR. The leader board can be grouped into contenders, challengers and lurkers. Saturday at a major championship is usually referred to as Moving Day and at this U.S. Senior Women’s Open, the third round will be about who puts themselves in position to make history on Sunday.
NCR’s South Course has proven to be a stern test, demanding accuracy off the tee and well-placed approach shots to the challenging greens. As always, part of what makes the weekend at a USGA championship so intriguing is that it is the weekend at a USGA championship. And that brings with it special pressure.
Here are 3 things to know for Rounds 3 and 4.
The great thing about Opens is that they are open. While there is prize money for the professionals, amateurs can earn exemptions and are also welcome to play their way in through qualifiers. The low amateur in the U.S. Senior Women’s Open gets into next year’s championship, which would be an especially big deal for Lara Tennant, as the 2023 championship will be played at her home club, Waverley Country Club in Portland, Ore.
Patricia Ehrhart leads the way among amateurs after 36 holes at 3-over-par 149. Tennant is just two strokes back at 151. Judith Kyrinis, who opened with a 1-under-par 72, is at 153 with Ellen Port at 155, Lisa McGill at 156 and Shelly Stouffer at 158. The low amateur in the U.S. Senior Women’s Open also gets into the U.S. Women’s Amateur, U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur and the U.S. Senior Women’s Amateur.
If Helen Alfredsson, who leads at 6-under-par 140, is handicapping who can make a run at her this weekend, she would be wise to look well down the leader board. Sitting eight strokes behind are Pat Hurst and Catriona Matthew. Both have won LPGA major championships and are capable of going very low.
Other names that should concern Alfie are Juli Inkster and Laura Davies at 147; while Jackie Gallagher-Smith doesn’t have the experience of those two multiple-major winners, she could make a run. Trish Johnson does have a lot of experience winning – she’s third all-time in career victories on the Ladies European Tour – and sits at 146, while Jill McGill and Catrin Nilsmark are at 145. Meanwhile, Leta Lindley, Annika Sorenstam and Tammie Green are breathing right down Alfredsson’s neck.
Alfredsson can take solace in this fact, however: The 36- and 54-hole leader or co-leader has gone on to win this championship in each of its three previous editions. So if the long-hitting Swede manages her game well, she has a good chance at becoming a two-time champion.
Brilliant golf course designs have this common trait: Great shots are rewarded but errant ones don’t have to be too far off target to be penalized. The wonderfully demanding green complexes of the South Course at NCR Country Club prove that point. And no stretch has been more exacting than the nine holes from No. 3 through No. 11. On Friday, seven of the nine toughest holes on the course were in that stretch.
Juli Inkster fell back with a triple bogey on No. 6 and Annika Sorenstam made her only bogey of the second round on that hole. Helen Alfredsson, meanwhile, played that gauntlet one under par. Leta Lindley played those holes three over par, as did Tammie Green. That inner nine of NCR’s South Course – Nos. 3 through 11 – could have a lot to say about the outcome of this championship.
Ron Sirak is a Massachusetts-based writer who frequently contributes to USGA websites and publications.