I K Kim moved a significant step closer to claiming her long-awaited first major title when she carded a 66 to storm into a six-shot lead after the third round of the Ricoh Women’s British Open at Kingsbarns Golf Links.
The 29-year-old Korean goes into the final round on 17 under par 199 and with a great chance to bury the memories of the one-foot putt she missed on the 72nd green at the 2012 Kraft Nabisco (now the ANA Inspiration) where she went on to lose the subsequent play-off to Sun Young Yoo.
In the meantime, she already has a record to celebrate with her 199-aggregate shaving one shot off the previous 54-hole record set by eventual winner, Ariya Jutanugarn, 12 months ago at Woburn. Her six-shot advantage at this stage also equals the previous record, achieved by Lorena Ochoa at St Andrews back in 2007.
Kim’s nearest challengers heading into the final round are England’s Georgia Hall, who four-putted the 17th but still carded a two under par 70 and Thailand’s Moriya Junatugarn, whose 67 gives her an outside chance of succeeding younger sister, Ariya, as champion.
“It was a lot of fun out there,” she said. “I think I’m finally able to let go of that (what happened in 2012) and that’s why I’m playing so well. Now, I just want to enjoy tonight and then whatever happens tomorrow, I’ll take.”
There were also big moves made by 2015 champion, Inbee Park, who equalled the course record 64 set by Michelle Wie in Thursday’s first round to move up into a share fourth place with America’s Ally McDonald on ten under par 206 and by 2013 winner, Stacy Lewis, who carded a 65 to claim sole possession of sixth place on 207.
Kim has won six times on the LPGA Tour but now has a great chance to become the latest Asian major winner after playing her last 35 holes without dropping a single shot. She made her intentions clear when she stormed to the turn in 32 with birdies at the second, fifth, six and seventh and then cruised home with further birdies at the 11th and 12th.
The round of the day came from 2015 champion, Inbee Park, who started at two under par but moved all the way up to ten under with a flawless 64 compiled during the best of the weather in the morning. She was then able to sit back and watch as the late starters were drenched by a series of squally showers for a third day in a row.
Park began the day with birdies on the first and the second and then added three more at the fifth, eighth and ninth to go out in 31 before coming home in 33 with further birdies at the 11th, 13th and 17th.
“The greens were a lot quicker than the last two days and that helped me a lot,” she said. “It was also a good ball-striking day which is something I’ve been struggling with for the last month or so.
“It’s very scoreable out there,” she added. “It doesn’t matter how many back I am. I’m just going to play my own golf tomorrow. That’s all I can do.”
Park had been paired with her great friend Lewis and they seemed to spur each other on with the American carding four birdies over the last four holes to post a 65 and go into the final round just on nine under par.
“I made more putts today,” explained the 2013 champion. “I putted pretty poorly the first two days but my Mom told me I needed to take my putter straighter back and apparently she was right. I hate to give her credit but I might buy her dinner tonight
“The weather was good and you have to take advantage,” she added. “I think Inbee and I both knew that.”
Irish World No. 1, Leona Maguire, is in the driving seat to win the Smyth Salver, awarded to the leading amateur who plays all four rounds, for a second year in a row. Maguire added a two under par 70 to her opening rounds of 69 and 71 to go into the final round on six under par 210.
That leaves her three shots ahead of reigning British Stroke Play champion, Sophie Lamb, and eight in front of Swedish international, My Leander. Lamb recovered from posting a treble bogey seven on the ninth to post a one over par 73 but Leander could only manage a 77 which has surely left her with too much to do.