By Larry Fine
BEDMINSTER, New Jersey (Reuters) – China’s Shanshan Feng held off a trio of South Koreans on the course at the U.S. Women’s Open on Friday but her performance was overshadowed by the grand entrance of U.S. President Donald Trump to the golf club that bears his name.
Riding in a motorcade of more than a dozen black SUVs, the president rolled in to the 500-acre Trump National, becoming the first sitting U.S. head of state to attend the championship.
His arrival was met by applause and some cheers, and a roar rang through the grounds when Trump made his way into the specially-built, personal viewing box overlooking the 15th green and 16th tee.
The second-round leaderboard was anything but “America First”, however, with the top nine all internationals on the rain-soaked 6,732-yard Old Course.
Feng, the overnight leader on 66, was her steady self, following her first bogey of the tournament at the 10th with back-to-back birdies for a 70 and an eight-under-par 136 total, good for a two-shot lead over a trio of South Koreans — Amy Yang (71), Lee Jeong-eun (69) and amateur Choi Hye-jin (69)
“On my front nine, the rain was really heavy,” said Olympic bronze medallist Feng, the world number six who has won seven LPGA events, including one major.
“But luckily my ball-striking was pretty good so I hit most of the balls on the greens. Overall, I did really well today.”
Yang, a perennial Women’s Open contender with top-four finishes in all but one of the last five editions, birdied her last for 71.
A pair of shocks were delivered by Lee, known as Jeong-eun6 as the sixth player of her exact name to play on the Korean LPGA Tour (KLPGA), and 17-year-old Choi, the world number two ranked amateur.
The 21-year-old Lee, in her first visit to the U.S., carried on the sublime form that landed her 10 top-10s from 14 events on the KLPGA Tour.
“I’m nervous,” 40th-ranked Lee said through an interpreter, “because I’m not sure if I could finish well in the last two days.”
Teenager Choi, a winner on the KLPGA this year, reeled off four successive birdies from the 18th, her ninth, and had a share of the lead before two late bogeys pulled her back.
“When I was first travelling over here, my goal was to make the cut,” she said through an interpreter. “So I’m already very happy with what I’m doing and I’m not going to feel any pressure.”
Lurking a bit further back were some of the biggest names in women’s golf.
World number one Ryu So-yeon and 2015 winner Chun In-gee were among those four behind.
The top American was Marina Alex, six back along with former number one Lydia Ko of New Zealand, who overcame four bogeys in a row on the front nine with four birdies on the homeward half.
Sixty-two players made the cut, set at two over par.
Missing by one stroke was KPMG Women’s PGA Championship winner Danielle Kang, with Park In-bee and Ariya Jutanugarn both seven-over.
(Reporting by Larry Fine; Editing by Hugh Lawson and Andrew Both)