Rose Zhang? Yeah, in her pro debut, she’s LEADING an LPGA event
No way would she dig herself out of the garbage she was in after two shots on Liberty National’s par-5 13th. The lie? Patchy. The water? Left. Would she chunk? Would she blade? Would she crumble? She would not. She did what she could with the pitch, two-putted from 30 feet and parred. OK, but …
No way would she squeeze an iron in close on the par-3 14th, with the Liberty in Liberty National — Lady Liberty, that is — just off to her right. Would she go long? Would she go short? Would the nerves strike? Please. She dropped her ball to 3 feet, birdied, and she was tied for the lead on Saturday at the LPGA’s Mizuho Americas Open. Cool, but …
No way would she drive — drive — the par-4 16th. This was a risk-reward hole. And they don’t call it that for giggles. There was trouble left. And right. And wind everywhere. It’s been fun, folks, but the story would end here, right? Stop it already. You already know what she did. Yeah, she drove that green. To. Five. Freaking. Feet. She laughed. It was funny. She didn’t make the putt, but she birdied. She was the leader by a stroke.
No way, no way, no way. Noooo way would Rose Zhang, one of the most-hyped women’s golfers in some time, find a way and do this in her pro debut. This just doesn’t happen. Tiger Woods? He tied for 60th at the 1996 Greater Milwaukee Open. Jack Nicklaus? He tied for 50th at the 1962 L.A. Open. On and on. The Golf Channel reported that it has been 72 years (!) since a player had won on the LPGA Tour in their first pro start, with Beverly Hanson doing so at the 1951 Eastern Open. For those doing the math, that’s 52 years older than Zhang.
Then again, maybe we should recalibrate.
No way? Consider:
Zhang’s the first woman to win two NCAA Division I individual crowns. She won 12 times at Stanford, and no, not even that Tiger guy did that. She’s won the U.S. Women’s Am. In April, she won the Augusta National Women’s Amateur. And on and on.
So here we go again, no matter that she’s doing this for money now, and going up against players who are doing this for a living. She opened with a two-under 70 on Thursday, followed with a 69 on Friday and a 66 on Saturday, and she leads by two over Atthaya Thitikul, Aditi Ashok and Cheyenne Knight entering Sunday’s final 18.
It’s been a little bit of everything, too. Zhang’s missed four fairways — all week. And just nine greens. The putting has been steady.
“Certainly there are expectations on me,” she told Golf Channel’s Karen Stupples, “but like I said before, I feel like that’s just a compliment and testament to what I’ve been doing well so far so I’ve been very thankful along the way.”
Oh yeah, she’s also cool, calm and collected too. But …
That was on Saturday. Not Sunday.
And the story was fun. But this ain’t a movie.
And there could be those nerves. And there could be those double-bogeys. And Thitikul, Ashok and Knight will be there, along with a few others in striking distance.
No way Zhang wins, right?