JERSEY CITY, N.J. — Illness. That was the short yet unfortunate diagnosis the LPGA cited when announcing Thursday morning that Rose Zhang had to withdraw from the Mizuho Americas Open after playing just three holes in the opening round. The news was disappointing for everyone involved with the event as the 20-year-old rising LPGA star was defending her title after an historic win in her first pro start a year ago at Liberty National, and coming off a victory the previous week at the Cognizant Founders Cup.

Little did anyone know Zhang’s would be the first of several similar announcements.

By Friday afternoon, six other players—Caroline Masson, Maja Stark, Minami Katsu, Jiwon Jeon and Paula Creamer—had dropped out of the Jersey City, N.J., tournament for the same reason. Meanwhile, three others—A Lim Kim, Ruoning Yin and Lindsey Weaver-Wright—bowed out of the event due to injury.

Exactly what “illness” means is uncertain. Zhang cited “bad intestinal pain” when she released her own statement on Instagram. The LPGA did not offer many more specifics, but did issue a statement regarding the situation.

“Medical professionals on site have treated several athletes for symptoms related to a viral infection. The LPGA and tournament organizers continue to monitor the situation closely, and are working together to advise and assist the LPGA athletes with precautions to try to keep everyone healthy.”

The news wasn’t all bad, however. At least not for a pair of alternates. When Masson and Stark withdrew Thursday before their first rounds, it opened the door for LPGA rookies Mao Saigo and So Mi Lee to get an unexpected start.

Both Saigo and Lee took advantage of the opportunity, and played their way to the top of the leaderboard in the first round. Saigo shot a four-under 68 and sat T-2 after 18 holes. The only person ahead of her? It was Lee who held solo lead after an astounding six-under 66.

“I didn’t expect to play today, so I [was going to] just go to the park and going to run, but my father said, hey, just go and some practice and you have a chance,” Lee said in a post-round interview.

Lee had already sent her caddie home when she got the call that Stark would not make her afternoon tee time and that she would be playing in less than an hour, so her father carried her bag for the first round.

Both alternates continued their solid play on Friday; Saigo carded a two-under 70 to finished tied for third, three shots back of 36-hole leader Atthaya Thitkul. Lee posted a one-under 71 to be solo second, two off the pace and set to play in the final group during Saturday’s third round.

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