Rose Zhang is set to claim the Smyth Salver in the 2022 AIG Women’s Open after a superb performance across the first two days at Muirfield.
Zhang has enjoyed a lengthy reign as the number one in the World Amateur Golf Rankings and showed why as she coped brilliantly with breezy conditions and a challenging links layout.
Having carded a one-over 72 in her opening round, Zhang posted an impressive 70 on Friday to be level-par for the Championship. As the only non-professional to make the cut, she is now in line to win the best amateur prize memorably claimed by Louise Duncan at Carnoustie 12 months ago.
Duncan finished in a tie for 10th last year and Zhang could yet mount a challenge of her own. Although the American is eight shots off the lead held by In Gee Chun, she remains within striking distance of the top 10.
Zhang mixed four birdies with five bogeys on Thursday and faced an early setback in her second round when she dropped a shot at the first.
However, the 19-year-old bounced back immediately with a birdie at the second and another gain at the par-three seventh further improved her position.
Zhang was rock-solid thereafter, parring the next nine holes before a two-putt birdie on 17 lifted her into red figures for the Championship.
A bogey at 18 represented a slightly disappointing finish, but Zhang still made the cut with ease and will now hope to further improve her position over the weekend.
Mizuki Hashimoto, the winner of the Women’s Amateur Asia-Pacific championship, and Valery Plata, champion at the inaugural Women's Amateur Latin America presented by The R&A and ANNIKA Foundation, each finished on seven-over-par, with the latter shooting 72 on Friday to improve on her previous score by five.
They were narrowly ahead of Ingrid Lindblad, second in the World Amateur Golf Rankings behind Zhang, who was eight-over for 36 holes after rounds of 74 and 76.
Caley McGinty deserves huge credit for bouncing back from Thursday’s 82 with an excellent 69. At nine-over, she finished on the same total as Anna Davis and one ahead of Savannah De Bock, while Women’s Amateur Champion Jess Baker shot 79 and 76 to be 13-over.