New Zealand super-teen Lydia Ko seizes one-shot lead at US Women’s Open

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 10 July, 2016, 11:08am
UPDATED : Sunday, 10 July, 2016, 9:26pm

World number one Lydia Ko, seeking to add a third major title to her resume, birdied the 18th to take a one-shot lead after three rounds of the US Women’s Open on Saturday.

The 19-year-old New Zealander had three birdies and one bogey on a blustery day on the CordeValle course in San Martin, California, her two-under 70 giving her a seven-under par total of 209 and a one-stroke lead over South Koreans Park Sung-hyun and Ji Eun-hee.

Park, a five-time winner on the Korean LPGA Tour who is playing in her first US Open, held a two-stroke overnight lead.

She carded a two-over par 74 to join Ji, who signed for a 70, on 210.

South Korean Amy Yang carded a one-over 73 to share fourth with American Brittany Lang (68) on 211.

Ko won the Evian Championship last year and the ANA Inspiration this year to take her major tally to two at the age of 19. A victory on Sunday would make her the youngest three-time major champion, man or woman, ever.

She had surged into contention with a 66 on Friday, but said conditions were less conducive a day later. “It was really tough out there,” Ko said. “The course is drying up, firming up. It was tough to get near the pins on some holes.”

But the poised teenager stayed steady on a day that saw as many as four players share the lead, and rolled in a 10-foot birdie putt on the par-five 18th to break out of a three-way tie for first with 2009 champion Ji and Park.

“No matter what position I’m in, always to finish with a birdie on the last hole is a lot of good memories,” she said. “I think I tried to stay patient and calm out there today.

“The key around major championships is that sometimes a par is a good score and you have to walk off and forget about the bads and focus about the shot you have in front of you.”

Park had to shake off a couple of mis-cues to stay in contention, including a double-bogey at the ninth where she drove into a lateral hazard.

She took a drop and then needed three more shots to reach the green, where she faced a 45-foot first putt.

Park was disappointed in her putting, feeling she left too many short, something she hoped to remedy in the final round.

While all eyes will be on Ko on Sunday, she cautioned that plenty of players would be in with a chance.

“There’s still a lot of golf to be played,” she said. “There’s a past US Open champion just a shot behind.”

And two strokes back there was Yang, who had at least a share of the 54-hole lead in each of the last two US Women’s Opens but finished runner-up to Chun In-gee of South Korea last year and settled for fourth in 2014 behind winner Michelle Wie.

She held a share of the lead before a bogey at 17, but said she couldn’t be disappointed with her one-over effort.

“It’s so windy out there, it wasn’t easy,” Yang said. “I saved some good up-and-downs. I’m still hitting it good. So I’m looking forward to it.”