The brief but intense lightning storm that greeted the dawn at Waverley Country Club was an omen of the fireworks to come in Friday’s second round of the 5th U.S. Senior Women’s Open. With challenging hole locations on the devious greens, par was a lofty goal. But Catriona Matthew brought her own electricity to the party with a birdie-birdie finish to shoot a 1-under-par 71 and take the lead into the weekend at 4-under-par 140.
Nicole Jeray matched Matthew’s 71 and is alone in second place, three strokes back at 143 with Christa Johnson at 144 and 2021 U.S. Senior Women’s Open champion Annika Sorenstam, Trish Johnson and Tammie Green at 145. The 2019 U.S. Senior Women’s Open champ Helen Alfredsson is at 146 along with Yuko Saito and Leta Lindley. Defending champion Jill McGill is at 148. Laura Davies, who won the inaugural championship in 2018, missed the cut.
“I thought the pins on the front nine were quite tricky, kind of tucked a little bit. I just never really gave myself any legitimate birdie chances and kind of messed up No. 3 with that funky green, and then No. 8 [was] just a pure three-putt,” said Matthew, who was 2 over par on her round through 12 before playing the final six holes 3 under par.
“[I] got going on the back nine, apart from No. 11, where I kind of took the wrong club,” Matthew said. “So desperate to get it up the false front that I went long and actually ended up making a good bogey. But nice to finish with two birdies.”
Jeray had a near-flawless scorecard with two birdies and a lone bogey after hitting 15 greens. Christa Johnson, who played for the University of Arizona and won nine times on the LPGA Tour, including the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship in 1997, had one birdie and one bogey on Friday.
“Oh, gosh, I'm just so happy to be here,” said Jeray, who competed regularly on the LPGA Tour for 12 years. “I coach high school, and it's crazy that I'm playing so good. But I really think telling the kids, ‘trust your shot, commit to your shot, go through your routine, it's a game of misses, it doesn't need to be perfect…’ Just me saying that over and over again every single day has really helped me, because that's how I'm playing.”
Trish Johnson has been in this situation before, finishing third and T-2 in four appearances in the U.S. Senior Women’s Open. She’s right in the thick of things once again despite being baffled by the greens.
“The condition of the course is absolutely amazing, just beautiful,” said Johnson, who hit 15 greens but needed 34 putts on the challenging greens, preventing her from going low and separating from the pack.
“But the greens are something else,” Johnson said. “They really are. I hit some pretty decent shots early on. Just probably had three or four what would have been birdie chances [but] there was no chance. I'd have a 10-foot birdie putt but it had six feet of break on it straight downhill.”
After making birdies on Nos. 13 and 15, Annika Sorenstam was in great position to climb to the top of the leaderboard, but she bogeyed No. 16 and failed to birdie either of the two par-5 finishing holes.
“It was a little shorter today, so I think that just makes me a little disappointed that I didn't take advantage of it,” Sorenstam said after shooting 71. “I had some chances but then also made some mistakes.”
Among those lurking who could make a move in Saturday’s third round are amateur Judith Kyrinis, Charlotta Sorenstam and Brandi Burton at 147; Cathy Forbes-Johnson and two more amateurs, Terrill Samuel and Sue Wooster are at 148 with Liselotte Neumann; Michelle McGann, Lisa DePaulo, Catrin Nilsmark, amateur Ellen Port, Patricia Meunier-Lebouc Jean Bartholomew and Pat Hurst sit at 149.
Waverley Country Club has already proven to be a demanding test, and with the mercury climbing into the 90s, it likely will play even firmer and faster on the weekend, setting the stage for what should be a dramatic conclusion to the championship. Certainly, there is more thunder and lightning to come – this created by the competitors, not nature.
“I said at the start of the week, anything around level par is pretty good around these greens because they're psycho greens. They really are.” – Trish Johnson
“I think the best part is I had a great group to play in. We all were playing well.” – Christa Johnson, who shot 72 while paired with Nicole Jeray (71) and Tammie Green (75 despite a triple bogey 7).
“Just having a ball. I'm so happy to be here. Thank you to the USGA for having this event for us.” – Nicole Jeray
“You know, I don't think it'll affect it. Obviously going to have a later time tomorrow, so just get some food tonight and then nice kind of easy morning, and off we go again.” – Catriona Matthew about being in the final group in Saturday’s third round.
Ron Sirak is a Massachusetts-based freelance writer whose work has previously appeared on USGA websites.