Jin-Young Ko will start out tomorrow bidding to follow in the footsteps of her Korean compatriot Hyo Joo Kim.
Kim won last year’s Evian Championship in her first appearance in a Major and Ko has the opportunity to do the same after posting a three under par 69 to share the lead with Teresa Lu from Chinese Taipei heading into the final round of the 2015 Ricoh Women’s British Open at the Trump Turnberry Resort in Ayrshire.
Kim is playing links golf for the first time this week but she has won three times on this year’s Korean LPGA Tour and also has a local Girvan caddie, Jeff Brighton, on her bag. The combination seems to be working because rounds of 68, 71 and 69 in wet and windy weather in Ayrshire have left the Korean tied for the lead with Lu at eight under par 208 and one shot ahead of Norway’s Suzann Pettersen, who started the day in the lead but posted a level par 72 to fall back to third place on 209.
Japan’s Mika Miyazato carded a third round 70 to go into the last round in fourth place on 210 while World No. 1 Inbee Park, World No. 2 Lydia Ko and World No. 16 Minjee Lee lurk ominously in a tie for fifth place a single shot further behind.
Ko played just one round in practice and admits she has relied heavily on her caddie’s judgement when it comes to club selection. She started the day with three pars but a trio of birdies in four holes from the 4th saw her go out in 33 and she came home in level par 36 to climb into a share of the lead.
“Jeff is very good,” she said through an interpreter. “On every shot he tells me to relax and enjoy it and that’s what I’m trying to do.
“I feel nothing,” she added when asked if she would be nervous heading into the final round with a share of the lead. “This is the first time I have visited Scotland. I didn’t expect anything from this tournament so I’m just having fun.”
Lu is making her first appearance in the Ricoh Women’s British Open for several years but got some tips on how to hit low shots into the wind from her coach at the recent US Women’s Open and admits she is enjoy the challenge. She began the third round with a bogey on the 1st hole and also dropped a shot at the 9th but birdies on the 3rd, 4th, 7th, 12th and 17th helped her to add a 69 to her opening rounds of 68 and 71.
“I’m just trying to stay as relaxed as I can,” said Lu who is a past winner on the LPGA Tour but plays most of her golf in Japan. “It’s difficult hitting low shots but it’s fun. It will be a tough day tomorrow but I will just try to stay relaxed and play my own game.
Pettersen started the third round in the lead after rounds of 68 and 69 but dropped shots at the 1st and the 6th before bouncing back with back-to-back birdies on the 10th and 11th. “I felt I left some shots out there but my long game was great,” said the two-time Major champion. “Better today than tomorrow. Last year (when she finished tied second at Birkdale) was the closest I’ve been. I feel I’m in a great position again so I’ll get some rest and try again tomorrow.”
The leading British player heading into the final round is England’s Mel Reid who stormed home in 31 shots with an eagle on the 17th and a birdie on the 18th to complete a three under par 69 and move up into a share of 8th place alongside Korea’s So Yeon Rhu on four under par 212.
She began the day with a double bogey six on the 1st and also dropped shots at the 4th and 6th before playing the last 12 holes in seven under par. “It wasn’t the best of starts,” admitted the English girl who ended a winless drought with a victory in this year’s Turkish Ladies Open.
“I think I was four over after five or six holes and I was frustrated because I didn’t think I was playing that badly. My aim was to get back to level so obviously what I did on the back nine was a bonus.
“I’m not too far off,” she added. “If I can just sort out the first few holes where I’ve been dropping shots I think I have a chance. I feel as if I’m putting really well and my swing feels good so I’m going out tomorrow to give it my best shot.”
Right behind Reid on the leaderboard is 2014 Ladies European Tour Rookie of the Year, Amy Boulden, who fired a best-of-the-day four under par 68 to move up into a share of tenth place alongside Denmark’s Nicole Broch Larsen on three under par 213.
The 21 year-old from Wales – she celebrates her 22nd birthday next Saturday – started her round with birdies on the 2nd and 3rd and then gained another shot at the 7th before dropping her only shot of the day when she 3-putted the 8th. She went on to add further birdies at the 10th and the 11th before completing her round with a run of seven straight pars.
“It was a good day out there,” said Boulden, who is coached by European Tour player, Robert Rock. “I felt it was a bit tougher than yesterday. The wind was different. On the front nine it was a straight left-to-right so picking your target off the tee was the big thing.
“Growing up in Conwy I definitely got used to playing in this sort of weather,” she added. “I remember playing in the Helen Holm (Scottish Women’s Open Amateur Stroke Play Championship) along the road at Troon and the weather was always bad there.”
The biggest turnaround of the week has come from Sweden’s Maria McBride – formerly Hjorth – who was 136th in the field after an opening 79 but has since carded rounds of 66 and 69 to climb up into a share of 12th place alongside compatriot, Anna Nordqvist, on two under par 214.
McBride has defied the inclement weather to play her last 42 holes of the Championship in 11-under par and has now moved to within touching distance of the leading pack with 18 holes left to play.
“I don’t really know what’s happened,” the former Stirling University student admitted. “I was nine over par after playing the 12th hole on Thursday but hadn’t given up hope of making the cut,” she said.
“You’ve just got to trust yourself in these conditions and keep going,” she added. “Yesterday was probably the best round I’ve ever played in my career. Today I played solid. I could have made a few more putts but I’m still very happy with the situation where I am right now.”
Spain’s Luna Sobron was assured of winning the Smyth Salver awarded to the leading amateur yesterday after all five of her competitors missed the cut and in the third round she consolidated her position in the top-25 on the leaderboard after adding a one under par 71 to her opening rounds of 70 and 77.
The 2014 European Amateur champion goes into tomorrow’s final round in a tie for 23rd place alongside Norway’s Marianne Skarpnord, Korea’s Sun Young Yoo and Americans Candie Kung and Jane Park.