LANCASTER, Pa. – They’re both craving another chance.
Amy Yang and Stacy Lewis both know how to win, but they both know something else, too. They know what it’s like to have the Harton S. Semple trophy within reach only to see somebody else hoist it on the 18th green late on a Sunday as the U.S. Women’s Open champion.
Yang and Lewis both thought they had chances to win at Pinehurst No. 2 last year only to see Michelle Wie win.
Yang was tied for the lead with Wie going into the final round, but Yang shot 74 and finished fourth. Lewis made a bold Sunday charge from six shots back to get within a shot of Wie on the back nine but ended up with the silver medal for second place.
Yang and Lewis moved into position Friday to script themselves better endings at Lancaster Country Club.
With a 4-under-par 66, equaling the round of the day, Yang took sole possession of the lead. Her 133 total is one shot shy of the 36-hole U.S. Women’s Open record set by Helen Alfredsson at Indianwood Country Club in Lake Orion, Mich., in 1994. At 7-under overall, Yang is one shot ahead of Lewis (67) and Shiho Oyama (66), four ahead of Marina Alex (71) and five ahead of a pack of six players that includes Rolex world No. 1 Inbee Park (70), Hall of Famer Karrie Webb (72) and Morgan Pressel (70).
Yang and Lewis will be together in the final pairing Saturday.
Yang said going out last with Wie on Sunday last year will help her this weekend. It was actually the second time she played in the final Sunday pairing of a U.S. Women’s Open. She was with Na Yeon Choi when Choi won at Blackwolf Run in 2012. Even coming up short, Yang said she valued the experience.
“It’s better to have that experience than never have it before,” Yang said.
Yang, 25, has won two LPGA titles, three Ladies European Tour titles and two Korean LPGA Tour titles. Though she has never won a major, she makes her way onto a lot of leaderboards in majors. She has finished top 10 in four of the last five U.S. Women’s Opens. She has finished T-5 or better in seven majors.
“I know what kind of pressure that is like,” Yang said.
Lewis, 30, knows what it’s like to conquer major championship pressure. She’s seeking to add to her 2011 Kraft Nabisco and 2013 Ricoh Women’s British Open titles.
Motivation isn’t lacking with Lewis trying to break through a year of almosts. She hasn’t won in a little more than a year, but she has battled into Sunday contention countless times, recording six second-place finishes and two thirds since her last victory. She lost the year’s first major in a playoff with Brittany Lincicome at the ANA Inspiration.
Coming so close in last year’s Sunday charge emboldens Lewis.
“Because you know you can do it,” Lewis said. “You know you can get on runs where you can make some birdies. That's what I was telling myself on the front nine yesterday. You can have nine bad holes and still win this golf tournament, just knowing that you can get hot and make a bunch of birdies and put a good number out there.”
Lewis put on a ball striking clinic Friday. She hit all 14 fairways. She hit the first 16 greens she looked at attacking flagsticks.
“It’s been a really long time since I felt that way over the ball,” Lewis said.
Lewis relishes the chance that ball striking gives her.
“Being in the final group tomorrow is right where you want to be,” she said. “I like the way I played today. I definitely, actually, could have been a couple more lower, if I made a few putts.”
Lewis would have matched the round of the day if not for a bogey at the last.
“I was just happy with the ball striking,” she said. “You have to hit fairways on this golf course and that's what I've done so far.”
So has Yang, who hit 12 of 14 fairways and 15 greens in regulation on Friday.
If Yang and Lewis remain sharp, they could put on quite the ball-striking show on Saturday.