Top-10 career shot, record 65 give Rose Zhang a lead that she rarely loses

EVANS, Ga. – Rose Zhang calls it a top-10 shot of her career. She had pulled her drive into the rough, nearly into the water, on Champions Retreat’s par-5 ninth hole during Thursday’s second round of the Augusta National Women’s Amateur. Even with 237 yards left to the hole and the ball severely above her feet, Zhang had no doubt she could pull off the hero shot and reach the green with a 3-wood.

Not that the worst possible outcomes weren’t filling her mind.

Though that was kind of the point.

“All I was thinking of was don't duck hook it so far left that you're in the trees,” Zhang said with a laugh. “… I was also thinking about not topping it. So, those are all interesting thought processes, but it was necessary for me to think of those possibilities.”

She then picked out her target, a TV tower, measured up her strike and swung away. Her ball came out “super low,” but it got there, rolling up to about 30 feet from the hole.

Highlights: Zhang, Augusta Natl. Women's Am., Rd. 2

Zhang followed by jarring the eagle putt to move into double digits for the first time at this championship, at 11 under. The Stanford sophomore would finish the day with a 7-under 65, breaking her own 18-hole tournament scoring record that she set on Wednesday, to move to 13 under, also an ANWA record for 36 holes, and five shots clear of second-place Andrea Lignell of Ole Miss.

“I'm just super blessed to be in this kind of position,” Zhang said. “I know that it's very rare, and I believe that it's just something that to keep in mind that no matter what happens, I'm always super proud of everything that I've accomplished thus far.

“The job's not done yet. We still have to go out there and play a good round.”

This Saturday will mark Zhang’s fourth competitive round at Augusta National. In her previous three trips she shot 75 (as a 15-year-old in 2019), 75 (with a triple bogey at No. 13) and 75 (with a fractured left pinky toe). The ANWA final-round record is 67, recorded by Jennifer Kupcho at the inaugural event four years ago.

If Zhang matches her worst score on Saturday, Lignell would need to card 70 just to force a playoff.

Zhang feels prepared to finally conquer Augusta

Full-field scores from the Augusta National Women’s Amateur

Plus, Zhang rarely loses when taking a solo lead into a final round. The last time she’s coughed up such a lead was at the Girls Junior PGA … in 2019, when she led Yuka Saso by a shot after 54 holes before shooting 73 and losing to Saso by five.

“I think playing with a big lead is certainly different from chasing from behind or even being one or two shots in the lead,” said Zhang, who has won five times this season at Stanford, running her career total to nine in just 16 starts. “I think that from my past experience, it's just very important to understand that you have a whole field kind of chasing you, and anything can happen. So, with that in mind, I'm just going to try my best to bring out the best that I can do when I'm going out there and playing at Augusta, and I think that every hole, every score matters.

“With that, I'm just going to play as hard as I can and try the best that I can.”

She likely won't even need her best, but knowing Rose, there's a good chance we'll see it.