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Unknown Bailey Tardy soars to U.S. Women's Open lead

(Photo credit: Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports)

Bailey Tardy is the epitome of a surprise clubhouse leader at the U.S. Women's Open.

The LPGA rookie has five missed cuts and one withdrawal in 10 events this season and nearly didn't qualify to play in this week's major championship. But there she was in the lead at midday Friday, as a 4-under 68 gave her a two-day, 7-under 137 total at Pebble Beach (Calif.) Golf Links.

"I'm honestly just enjoying the moment here," Tardy said after making the cut for the first time in her four U.S. Women's Opens. "I'm leading the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach. And I think that's something that is just so special. I'm trying not to get too ahead of myself. There's so much golf left."

At the time Tardy finished, she was in possession of a two-shot lead over Allisen Corpuz (70 on Friday) and Hyo Joo Kim of South Korea (71).

Tardy, 26, made four birdies and eagled the par-5 sixth hole for the second straight day. She had two bogeys in the round.

Her eagle at No. 6 on Thursday propelled her to an opening-round 69.

"I think (No.) 6 is a really difficult drive for me, knowing that there's bunkers that I can reach and then water," Tardy said. "But once you get over that, you hit a good shot. I know the line straight over that hill, so just having that confidence to be able to hit the green in two I guess has helped me do that the last two days."

Tardy, who is from Norcross, Ga., had a tough road to qualify for her first U.S. Women's Open since 2017.

She stalled about signing up but repeated badgering by her mother finally got her into a qualifier in Minnesota before the deadline. Then she thought she was done and was preparing for the flight home when someone else's wayward play kept her alive.

"I had showered, I had changed, I had packed my golf clubs, and I was out," Tardy said. "'I'm first alternate. Get me home. I'm done. I'm tired.' I also bogeyed the last hole, and so I was kind of kicking myself for that."

But with renewed life, Tardy gained the second of two qualifying spots during a four-hole playoff.

Corpuz made four birdies against two bogeys during her round. All three birdies were on the front nine.

Kim, a co-leader after Day 1, started on the back nine and made four birdies in an eight-hole stretch between No. 12 and No. 1. That brought her to 7 under, but she closed her round with consecutive bogeys to slip behind.

Leona Maguire of Ireland was also among the early finishers and struggled to a 2-over 74 after opening with a 69.

Maguire finished the day with five bogeys, including three straight at one point, and three birdies to drop to 1 under for the championship.

"Yeah, struggled a bit today," Maguire said. "I had a lot of really good up-and-downs to sort of keep me in it, but didn't really play my best golf today. Didn't hit enough greens, and that kind of made things a little bit difficult."

Former Stanford star Rose Zhang shot 71 and is at 1-over 145.

"Feel like the game isn't exactly where I want it to be exactly but you can't really have that many weeks where you're always on top of your game," said Zhang, who recently turned professional among a sea of hype.

"You have to learn how to grind it out, and I'm slowly learning to do so."

Canada's Brooke Henderson (75) is at 2 over and New Zealand's Lydia Ko (71) is 3 over.

Among those projected to miss the cut are Thailand's Atthaya Thitikul (76 Friday, 8-over 152 total) and Jennifer Kupcho (77, 153).

--Field Level Media