Rose Zhang (ANWA photo)
Forty-eight hours and a Saturday walk amidst Augusta National's famed azaleas and dogwoods seem to be the only things standing between Rose Zhang and the only major title that has thus far eluded her.
After opening with a bogey-free 6-under 66 on Wednesday, the world's top-ranked female amateur bested her own ANWA scoring record in Thursday's second round, firing a 7-under 65 at Champions Retreat.
At 13-under par, the Stanford sophomore will take a five-shot lead over Andrea Lingnell into Saturday's final round at Augusta National, while Jenny Bae is six back at 6-under. No one else is within fewer than 10 shots of the reigning NCAA champion, who has made just one bogey in 36 holes at Champions Retreat.
“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. “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."
Related: ANWA Notebook: The Zhang Gang, the chasers and future stars
Larger final-round leads have evaporated on the famed course over the years and this is the ANWA, where recently the unexpected has been the norm. It was just two years ago that Zhang held a share of the lead entering the final round, only to see her title hopes dashed by a triple bogey on the par-5 13th.
"I think playing with a big lead is certainly different from chasing from behind or even being one or two shots in the lead," said Zhang. "So I think that from my past experience it's just very important to understand that you have a whole field kind of chasing you, and anything can happen."
However, with her game as sharp as ever and enjoying the largest lead that anyone's ever had heading into the final round at the Augusta National Women's Amateur, a rose coronation seems inevitable come Saturday.
The prohibitive favorite coming into the tournament, Zhang has embraced the pressure which will certainly ratchet up come Saturday as the tournament shifts from Champions Retreat to the hollowed grounds of the National where her ability to successfully navigate through holes named Firethorn, Redbud, Nandina and Holly will likely determine her ultimate fate.
"I'm just super blessed to be in this kind of position," said Zhang. "I know that it's very rare, and I believe that it's just something that to keep in mind that no matter what happens, I'm always super proud of everything that I've accomplished thus far.
"The job's not done yet. We still have to go out there and play a good round."
• • • • •
Defending champion Anna Davis, who occurred a four-shot penalty on her opening hole Wednesday for lifting and cleaning her ball in the rough, missed the cut by two shots.
LSU's Ingrid Lindblad, the world's second-ranked female amateur behind Zhang who has finished no lower than third in her previous two ANWA appearances, also missed the cut after carding rounds of 78 and 74 at Champions Retreat.
Amari Avery, ranked ninth in the world, birdied her last two holes to finish on the cutline which came at 2-over.
After an opening round 79, Ting-Hsuan Huang of Taiwan bounced back with a 66 to make the cut with two shots to spare.
Gianna Clemente, the youngest player in the field at 15, shot a second-round 69 and is tied for ninth at 1-under.
After missing the cut in her first two ANWA appearances, Zhang's Stanford teammate, Megha Ganne, survived Champions Retreat is tied for ninth at 1-under.
Bohyun Park, a sophomore at Texas, made the first hole-in-one in ANWA history on Thursday when she aced the par-3 eighth hole. At 1-under, she is tied for ninth place heading into Saturday's final round.
Wake Forest's Emilia Migliaccio, runner-up to Tsubasa Kajitani in 2021, birdied her last three holes to finish two strokes inside the cutline at 1-over.
Jensen Castle, the 2021 U.S. Women's Amateur champion, made a 8-foot birdie putt on the 18th to land on the cutline at 2-over.
For the first time in history, participants from Canada (Monet Chun), Colombia (Maria Jose Marin) and Chinese Taipei (Hsin-Yu Lu and Ting-Hsuan Huang) are into the final round.
ABOUT THE Augusta National Women’s Amateur (ANWA)
54-hole stroke-play tournament that will include a
72 player international field. The field will include
winners of other recognized tournaments while also
utilizing the Women's World Amateur Golf Rankings.
The first two rounds will be played at
Retreat Golf Club before the field is cut to the low 30
and ties for the final round at Augusta National.
The tournament will be played the week before
Masters, concluding on Saturday.
View Complete Tournament Information