Nelly Korda shines, Danielle Kang grinds, and 3 other winners from day 2 at the U.S. Women’s Open

Nelly Korda shined once again on day 2 at the U.S. Women's Open.

Darrien Riehl

SOUTHERN PINES, N.C. — At long last, the heat subsided on Friday at the U.S. Women’s Open. After days of advisories and warnings, the temperatures dipped from “scalding” to merely “hot.”

Fortunately for those at Pine Needles, the play more than made up for the difference. For the second consecutive day, the field went low.

At the halfway mark at women’s golf’s biggest event, Mina Harigae and Minjee Lee are tied for the lead at 9-under — an astonishingly low 36-hole score for a bouncy, baked-out setup at Pine Needles. Harigae and Lee make up two of a whopping 21 players under-par.

In short, there have been plenty of winners through two days of play at the U.S. Women’s Open. Below, find the five biggest.

5 winners from Friday at the U.S. Women’s Open

1. Nelly Korda shines

The former World No. 1 made her return from a blood clot to much fanfare on Thursday, but Nelly’s performance during Friday’s second round was striking. Of course, her even-keeled two-under 69 (three birdies to just a single bogey) was impressive from a statistical standpoint, but Korda fans should be particularly excited about the way she did it.

Korda looked very much her old self on Friday, powering her way around Pine Needles. Her drive on the 18th towered past those of her playing partners Danielle Kang and Atthaya Thitikul — a high, arcing draw that set up a flipped wedge look at birdie.

She escaped with only a par on the hole, but it was no matter. At 3-under through two days of play, Nelly is right where she wants to be heading into the weekend.

Nelly Korda impressed on Friday at the U.S. Women’s Open.

Darren Riehl

2. Danielle Kang grinds

Danielle Kang just snuck under the cutline on Friday at the U.S. Women’s Open after a disastrous triple-bogey 8 on No. 1, but she was a winner Friday for so much more than her leaderboard position.

Kang revealed to media after her round that doctors discovered a tumor on her spine of still-unknown nature. The tumor, Kang said, has been among the factors causing her recent string of missed starts.

She hadn’t swung a club in “eight or nine weeks” prior to just days before the USWO, undergoing “multiple procedures” to help with her back. She admitted she was still in considerable pain competing on Friday at Pine Needles, but did everything she could to keep from WDing before tournament week.

Now, she’ll play into the weekend, earn a cut of the largest purse in women’s golf history, and wear a heck of a badge of honor for her mental fortitude.

3. The amateur!

It’s been a long while since we’ve seen an amateur win a U.S. Women’s Open — 55 years, to be exact. Ingrid Lindblad, the Augusta National Women’s Amateur runner-up, enters the weekend with a legitimate shot at contention.

She enters Saturday at 6-under, three strokes back of the lead, looking to recreate the magic first captured by Catherine Lacoste in 1967.

4. The lurker

No player in the field looked more dangerous heading into Pine Needles than Jin Young Ko. Ko, a greens-in-regulation wizard, looked primed to utilize those skills to take advantage of Donald Ross’ tricky green shelves and pin placements.

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Through two rounds at the USWO, Ko has yet to have a truly memorable moment. But rather, has done what she does best: quiet, consistent dominance. She opened the week with consecutive scores in the 60s, and enters moving day in what many would consider perfect position.

5. The golf course!

Pine Needles is bouncy, firm, and decidedly demanding. Its greens are punishing, its slopes penal, and its bunkers deep. These are the conditions the USGA hoped to find Pine Needles in, and these are the conditions the best players in the world have received. Rest assured, the low scores of the opening two days are not the result of a toothless test.

James Colgan

Golf.com Editor

James Colgan is an assistant editor at GOLF, contributing stories for the website and magazine. He writes the Hot Mic, GOLF’s weekly media column, and utilizes his broadcast experience across the brand’s social media and video platforms. A 2019 graduate of Syracuse University, James — and evidently, his golf game — is still defrosting from four years in the snow. Prior to joining GOLF, James was a caddie scholarship recipient (and astute looper) on Long Island, where he is from. He can be reached at james.colgan@golf.com.