Webb, Alex share lead at rain-halted U.S. Women's Open in Lancaster

Associated Press

LANCASTER — Atop the leaderboard, veteran Karrie Webb and LPGA Tour sophomore Marina Alex did their best to temper expectations at the U.S. Women's Open.

The early Thursday starters opened with 4-under-par 66s, and that score held up through the afternoon before things turned wet and windblown. Play was suspended in the early evening after a storm packing high winds, lightning and heavy rain pounded Lancaster Country Club.

The sudden halt to the action with 55 players left to complete their rounds — with at least two threatening the lead — left Webb and Alex as unlikely co-leaders.

The USGA's plan is to restart the first round at 6:45 a.m. Friday, and begin the second round a half-hour later.

Amy Yang, who played in the morning, was in the clubhouse a shot behind the leaders. Two players on the course were also at 3 under: Na Yeon Choi, the 2012 U.S. Open champion, had three holes to play, while Jane Park had five.

Top-ranked Inbee Park birdied two of her last three holes before play was stopped and was at 2 under through 14. Morgan Pressel and six other morning starters shot a 2-under 68.

The 40-year-old Webb reeled off four birdies on her second nine holes and finished with her first score in the 60s in a U.S. Open since 2001, when the Australian won her second straight U.S. championship.

The seven-time major champ started on the back nine and reeled off 10 straight pars before making her move with birdies at the second, fourth, sixth and eighth holes.

This season has been a struggle for Webb, who has three top-10s in 14 starts. That all changed Thursday when she hit 14 fairways and 17 of 18 greens.

"It's been a test of my patience, I feel like I've had some good golf in me," Webb said.

Asked about possibly adding an eighth major title and moving into a tie for sixth place overall with Betsy Rawls, Webb deferred the question to a later date — Sunday — presumably after the final round.

"That is too early to ask me that question," Webb said. "But that's never been a goal of mine. I'm just happy to get off to a good start and hopefully continue to play this good for the next three days."

Alex, playing in her second U.S. Open and first since 2009, was a surprise atop the leaderboard. The 24-year-old from Wayne, New Jersey, is in her second season on the LPGA Tour. She missed the cut five straight weeks this season and her best finish was a tie for ninth in Arkansas.

She'd been working on swing changes before the championship, and it finally all came together.

Alex said she had trouble getting her shots to the middle and back of the greens on her final nine holes, but managed to stay patient. And it paid off.

She drained a lengthy putt on No. 4, added a birdie at the par-5 seventh when she knocked her approach within 2 feet, and followed with a 5-wood to within 18 feet on the ninth and made a curling birdie putt.

"It was the best putt and best shot of the day for me, so that was great," she said.

Alex added there is a world of difference between her first Women's Open experience and her performance Thursday.

"I was an amateur," she said. "I qualified like the last spot on my sectional. My game then and now is not even remotely the same. So that was just — I mean I was a nervous kid pretty much."

On Thursday, she embraced the championship atmosphere and cheering crowds, but kept it all in perspective.

"I'm not a front-runner for this tournament, really," she said. "So I'm just going to go out there and have fun tomorrow with my caddie, and just keep doing the things that we've been doing and just see where that puts me."

Stacey Lewis, who finished second last year, shot a 69, while Lydia Ko opened with 70, and defending champion Michelle Wie, slowed by injury and illness this season, shot a 2-over 72.

Jimin Kang withdrew from the championship after 16 holes, citing illness.