Mehaffey’s weekend hopes alive after gutsy fightback in Houston

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Mehaffey’s weekend hopes alive after gutsy fightback in Houston

Olivia Mehaffey / Image from Cashman Photography

Olivia Mehaffey can still play her way into the weekend rounds of the US Women’s Open after brilliantly recovering from a nightmare seven holes on day one at Champions Golf Club.

Tackling the Jackrabbit Course first-up on Thursday, the 23-year old, who hadn’t been since in competition since making her maiden Major cut at the ANA Inspiration back in September, was understandably slow out of the blocks at the last Major on the 2020 golfing calendar.

The Royal County Down and Tandragee amateur started with three straight fives to drop to two-over before a triple-bogey 7 at the par-4 fifth was followed by another triple at the par-3 7th; Mehaffey eight-over through seven holes as her tournament hopes looked like ending before they began. However, the world amateur number 18 refused to be beat and together with Assistant Coach at ASU, Michelle Estill, who’s caddying for Olivia this week, the pair rallied with Mehaffey making a most-welcomed birdie at the ninth to make the turn in 43.

Another bogey followed at the eleventh but a run of pars then steadied what at one time looked a sinking ship before the Northern Irishwoman birdied two of her closing three holes to be home in 34, signing for a six-over par round of 77 that leaves her with plenty of work to do, but not mission impossible to make the halfway cut.

Meanwhile, Amy Olson showed how quickly things can change when she got back to under par with one swing, an 8-iron for a hole-in-one on her seventh hole on Thursday. At four-under par, she leads the tournament by one stroke heading into round two after just eleven players broke 70 on the Cypress Creek and Jackrabbit courses.

“I had 141 to the flag and the pin was on the right side of the green with the wind kind of coming from from the right,” Olson said. “So I hit a fade to try to hold the wind, and it landed two paces short of the flag, had some good spin on it and just trickled in. We saw the whole thing, which was fun.”

Sophia Popov was among the group at 69. She figured it would be a long shot to be in the U.S. Women’s Open this year when the USGA had to scrap qualifying because of the COVID-19 pandemic. And then when golf resumed, Popov earned a spot in the Women’s British Open and won at Royal Troon. And now she’s already in the mix at the U.S. Women’s Open, along with so many others. Asked if she had come down from the cloud of her surprise major victory, Popov smiled and said, “Am I down yet?”

“I’m trying not to come down off of it. I quite like it,” she said. “But yeah, I think it took me a couple weeks, but after that it was back to reality. You’ve got to grind, you’ve got to practice, you’ve got to do everything the same way you did before, just now you have a lot more events to play and better events to play.”

None of the top five in the world ranking broke par. Jin Young Ko opened with a 73, while Sei Young Kim had a 72 in what could be a battle for No. 1 this week. Nelly Korda, playing for the first time in two months because of back pain, had only one birdie in her round of 73. Danielle Kang didn’t make any birdies and shot 72.

The starting times for the second round were moved up a little more than an hour because or rain and wind in the forecast, which figures to make the courses even tougher. For one round, the Jackrabbit course was about a stroke easier. Cypress Creek will be used on the weekend.

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One response to “Mehaffey’s weekend hopes alive after gutsy fightback in Houston”

  1. John Mac avatar

    Very glad you chose that headline…..nice to have a tremendous fightback recognised!!

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