South Korea’s Choi Na-yeon fired a remarkable seven-under 65 on Saturday to seize a six-shot lead after three rounds of the US Women’s Open.
Choi had a 54-hole total of eight-under 208, with her nearest rival, compatriot Amy Yang, a distant second on two-under 214 after a three-under 69.
The two were the only players to break 70 in difficult windy conditions at Blackwolf Run.
Choi matched the lowest third-round score in tournament history and her 65 also tied the third-lowest round ever posted at a US Women’s Open.
“I couldn’t believe how I got eight birdies today, but I did and I’m very happy, and I’m very satisfied and I’m very excited” said Choi, ranked fifth in the world.
The lowest round in US Women’s Open history was Helen Alfredsson’s 63 in 1994. Three other players have shot a 64.
Choi’s impressive effort came on the same course where Pak Se-ri won the US Women’s Open 14 years ago, inspiring a generation of South Korean girls to pursue golf careers.
Choi said she remembered watching that 1998 US Women’s Open on television and Pak’s victory changed her ideas about what she herself might be able to achieve in the game.
“I changed my goal: ‘I have to go to the LPGA Tour and I want to win on the LPGA Tour,’” Choi said.
Lexi Thompson of the US, Japan’s Mika Miyazato and Germany’s Sandra Gal were tied for third on one-under 215.
Thompson, 17, carded a 72, Miyazato a 73 and Gal signed for a 74.
It was a tough day for overnight leader Suzann Pettersen of Norway. She posted a 78 to move to one-over, but maintained she could still play her way back into contention.
“You know what, there’s birdies out there,” she said. “I think the wind is going to be a little bit less tomorrow from what I’ve seen, so if you get off to a hot start, hopefully put a number down early in the clubhouse, who knows?”
Yang, who had five birdies and two bogeys, said she would try to stay steady in the final round.
“I’m just going to keep being patient tomorrow, try to do my best,” she said.
World No. 1 Yani Tseng of Taiwan struggled to a 78 that left her eight-over.
Tseng said she had trouble with club selection in the face of the difficult winds and pin placements.
She said she did not see the course giving up many low scores “except for Na-yeon.”
Taiwan’s Candie Kung, Amy Hung and Doris Chen failed to make the cut on Friday.
Choi started the day one-under — four shots off the lead.
The five-time LPGA Tour winner had four birdies on the front nine and birdied three in a row from the 10th.
The only blemish on her card was a three-putt bogey at 13, and she responded with a 15-foot birdie putt at 17.
“I have a good feeling about my putting speed and putting strokes,” Choi said. “So I hope to get good results tomorrow [Sunday].”
However, Choi acknowledged that it would not be easy.
“Honestly, it will be a lot of pressure tomorrow, but you know, I know what I have to do, and I know what I can control,” she said.
Additional reporting by staff writer