Qualifier Bailey Tardy leads U.S. Women's Open
PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. — Bailey Tardy, by her admission, dreads playing in U.S. Open qualifying tournaments. The LPGA Tour rookie considered missing this year’s application deadline to avoid the grueling 36-hole, one-day format, even if it meant forgoing an opportunity to secure a spot in the first U.S. Women’s Open at Pebble Beach Golf Links.
Gentle prodding from her mother finally compelled Tardy to register in the 11th hour for the qualifier at Somerset Country Club in Mendota Heights, Minn. She wound up being the second player off the course, assuming her day was done because she was too far behind after a bogey on the final hole.
Having scheduled a flight out that night, Tardy showered, changed and was packing to leave when she decided to wait a little bit longer. Validation came when the solo leader three-putted the final green, forcing a playoff Tardy won in the twilight on the fourth hole.
“I was like, ‘Oh, my gosh, I’ve got to hit golf balls,’ ” she said. “So I threw golf clothes back on, found my golf shoes, hit about 15 balls and just went out and played four holes, which felt like an eternity.”
A little more than a month later, in her first U.S. Women’s Open start as a professional, Tardy walked off this storied venue early Friday afternoon in first place thanks to a 4-under-par 68 for a 36-hole total of 7-under 137, two strokes in front of fellow American Allisen Corpuz and South Korea’s Hyo Joo Kim.
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A blistering front nine highlighted Tardy’s round, which began with the first tee time of the day. Conditions were benign, allowing Tardy to go at flagsticks on more receptive greens without much worry that wind would impact her ball flight.
She ignited her round with an eagle at the 490-yard, par-5 sixth, where her approach settled inside of five feet, drawing rousing applause from the small gallery surrounding the green. Tardy rolled the putt into the center of the cup to get to 6 under for the tournament.
At the next hole, a 141-yard par-3, Tardy struck a pure tee shot that landed within three feet of the pin. She made the putt for a birdie, and for the second consecutive round, Tardy had gone eagle-birdie at Nos. 6 and 7, becoming the only player in the field to do so.
She also birdied the 434-yard, par-4 ninth to fire a 31 on her outward nine before a more steady wind began moving into the Monterey Peninsula.
“I haven’t performed great in the previous majors this year, so just to finally be able to throw some good rounds in and finally have everything come together,” Tardy said. “I feel like I’ve had really good ball-striking days and then terrible putting days, and then I’ll have a great putting day but terrible ball-striking. So it’s finally coming together and meshing well, and it just happens to be at the right time.”
Tardy’s putter betrayed her in the previous major, the Women’s PGA Championship at Baltusrol (N.J.) Golf Club. She hit 16 of 18 greens on the first day at the lower course, for instance, but shot 4 over. The poor showing on the greens led Tardy to put her putter in what she called a “timeout for about three or four days.”
She ultimately elected to stick with the putter, making one modification. Tardy scrapped her previous head cover for a new Calloway model featuring an image of a beloved Simpsons cartoon character and one of his — and her — favorite pastries.
“I love doughnuts,” she said. “It’s Homer’s head and then a Simpsons doughnut.”
Tardy has put herself in position heading into the weekend to become the first qualifier to win a U.S. Women’s Open since South Korea’s Birdie Kim in 2005 and the first American to capture the most coveted of the five women’s major championships since Brittany Lang in 2016.
Corpuz, meanwhile, continued her upswing at this season’s majors in just her second year on the LPGA Tour after finishing in a tie for fourth at the Chevron Championship, two shots behind winner Lelia Vu, and in a tie for 15th at the Women’s PGA Championship.
Corpuz got to as low as 6 under in the second round Friday before a mis-hit on her approach at the 508-yard, par-5 18th yielded a closing bogey just as the sun began to peek through the marine layer that had kept conditions cool.
“Going into this year, it really has been about getting better and better,” Corpuz said. “I honestly still need to get a little more comfortable, I think, in contention. So that’s really been the focus this year, just really trying to put myself into that spot and then hopefully learn how to convert as it keeps happening.”
The afternoon tee times on cut day included a farewell walk for Michelle Wie West, the 2014 U.S. Women’s Open champion who announced last year that this week would be the final tournament perhaps in her career. She came into the second round 7 over and fired a second consecutive 79 to miss the cut, finishing at 14 over.
Playing in the group with Wie West was Annika Sorenstam, a 10-time major champion who also missed the cut, finishing at 15 over after firing a 79 on Friday. The three-time U.S. Women’s Open champion accepted a special exemption into this year’s tournament because of the historical significance of it being held at Pebble Beach.