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Rose Zhang has struggled on the greens at Pebble Beach, but she might’ve found the fix during her third round.
PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. — It’s late in the third round of the U.S. Women’s Open, and Rose Zhang stands on Pebble Beach’s 18th green. She’s even par for the day, and if she can birdie the par-5 finisher, she’ll get back to even par for the championship. She’s eight shots behind the lead, but Sundays at majors are tricky — anything can happen.
Zhang sizes up her birdie look from 13 feet and goes through her routine: Read the putt from front and back. Pick a spot she wants the ball to roll over. Confer with her caddie. She steps over the ball and strokes the putt, watching as her Stanford-stamped Titleist rolls over the bumpy Poa annua surface.
It rolls out and stops five inches short of the hole, rudely staying above ground. Zhang taps in for par and heads for the scoring tent. An even-par 72 leaves her at one over for the championship.
“I just felt like I made a couple mistakes going in,” she says. “And missed a couple putts.”
The mistakes are forgivable. Zhang’s hit the ball beautifully all week, even in difficult conditions. The missed putts are a bit harder to swallow. Although the rookie has only been on the LPGA Tour a month, missed putts are becoming a bit of a trend.
At the Mizuho Americas Open, a cold putter on Sunday nearly cost her the crown. And at the KPMG Women’s PGA, missed putts on the back nine were the difference between a victory and a near-miss.
Saturday was another one of those days. Zhang took 30 putts to get around the seaside links, and she lost half a stroke to the field on the greens. Of the 74 players who made the cut, Zhang ranked 52nd in strokes gained: putting during Round 3.
“I felt like I hit everything pretty solid,” she said. “I just wish I could have made more putts.”
The good news is Zhang has an idea of why her putting abandoned her — and how she can fix it.
“My clubface was a little bit open at address, so even if I do have a good stroke, I tend[ed] to miss right today,” she said. “I think going into tomorrow just understanding my alignment and committing to that stroke is what I’m planning on doing.”
Self-diagnosis is a key quality of any elite player, and it appears Zhang fits that mold.
“I saw myself missing a couple more putts to the right rather than the left and they felt like good strokes,” she said. “So it’s just something that you go back to in terms of fundamentals.”
If she can get back to those fundamentals to correct the open face, expect the putts to fall with more frequency in the final round.
Zephyr Melton is an assistant editor for GOLF.com where he spends his days blogging, producing and editing. Prior to joining the team at GOLF, he attended the University of Texas followed by stops with the Texas Golf Association, Team USA, the Green Bay Packers and the PGA Tour. He assists on all things instruction and covers amateur and women’s golf. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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