EVANS, Ga. — Rose Zhang has a knack for making golf look incredibly easy, and the Stanford star is up to her usual antics once again this week.
Over the first two rounds of the 2023 Augusta National Women’s Amateur, the 19-year-old phenom has made just one bogey at Champions Retreat — host course for the opening two rounds of the 54-hole event — and will enter Saturday’s final round at Augusta National Golf Club with a five shot lead at 13 under.
The world’s top-ranked amateur shot the low round of the day on Thursday, a blistering 7-under 65 to follow her 6-under 66 in Wednesday’s opening round. Zhang set the 18-hole tournament record for low score in the first round then beat her own mark in the second.
An equipment representative said it best: “There’s a lot of really good players here, but there’s one great one.”
Those numbers and praise shouldn’t come as much of a surprise given Zhang’s status in the game, form this season (five wins in six college starts) and past history at the event. Zhang has finished T-17 (2019), T-3 (2021) and T-12 (2022) in three previous ANWA appearances, and is one of three members of the exclusive club of players to play all four editions of the event.
“I just feel very grateful to have this kind of platform, and playing well these first two rounds is certainly something that I’m super proud of,” said Zhang after her record round. “It’s not just me that kind of did this. I feel like everyone who supports me out there, I really felt the support. I really felt the love.
“I had a whole entourage in the back of my head.”
After winning the U.S. Girls’ Junior, U.S. Women’s Amateur and NCAA individual national championship, the ANWA is the final event left for Zhang to conquer in her accolade-laden amateur career.
“The job’s not done yet,” said the always humble Zhang. “We still have to go out there and play a good round.”
Those of you who watched the ANWA last year saw Latanna Stone give away the tournament over the last few holes, and if any course can shake up a leaderboard, it’s the one down Magnolia Lane.
Ole Miss senior Andrea Lignell and Georgia fifth year Jenny Bae have done well to keep Zhang within sight this week and should be in the mix come Saturday. Lignell, a two-time winner this season, sits solo second at 8 under after opening rounds of 67-69. Constantly in the mix for the Bulldogs with a win and five top-5 finishes this year, Bae is a shot back in third at 7 under after a 4-under 68 in the second round.
“Last year I really learned key lessons, and I took home a little bit of the things that I needed to work on,” said Bae, who missed the cut in 2022. “It kind of proved to me that I can also compete at this level, but at the same time I also need to work on the smaller things that I normally choose not to do. Yeah, the past year I’ve grinded really hard, and I think it proved.
“I’m really proud of myself,” she continued. “I don’t really say that about myself, and I really should start to.”
Wednesday’s weather conditions made for a difficult day to score, but players found their groove under Thursday’s sunny skies after a morning fog delay. Of the 72 players in the field, 27 were under par in the second round compared to just 12 in the first round.
All 72 players in the field will play a practice round at Augusta National on Friday, and the top-30 players and ties who made the cut will compete in the final round on Saturday.
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A deep fog provided the backdrop for some surreal images Thursday morning from the Augusta National Women’s Amateur