Wie, Yang share lead at US Women’s Open
PINEHURST, North Carolina (AP) — Michelle Wie steadied herself over the last four holes in a wild third round at the U.S. Women’s Open on Saturday, leaving the former teen prodigy from Hawaii one round away from winning her first major.
Wie made back-to-back birdies to build a four-shot lead, only to give it all back with drives all over Pinehurst No. 2. She salvaged a 2-over 72 for a share of the lead with Amy Yang, who didn’t make a par until the eighth hole in her roller-coaster round of 68.
They were at 2-under 208, the only two players still under par on a Pinehurst No. 2 course that was crispy and brittle. The U.S. Golf Association set the course up relative to what the men faced last Saturday in the U.S. Open — short but tough because of the pin positions.
“It’s tough out there,” Wie said. “My system got a little overheated. You can’t be in the trees here. But I felt like I grinded out there.”
The big surprise was the tournament-best 66 from Juli Inkster, the 53-year-old Hall of Famer who has said this will be her 35th and final U.S. Women’s Open.
Inkster, who hasn’t made the cut in this championship in five years, was tied for third just four shots behind. She will be in the penultimate group, though a long shot to become the oldest LPGA major champion by 10 years.
“You can think and you can dream all you want,” Inkster said. “But the bottom line is you’ve got to come out and make the shots. And if I’m tied for the lead coming up 18, then maybe I’ll think about it. I’ve got a long way to go. I’m just going to enjoy the moment.”
Lexi Thompson, who won the first major of the year in a final-round duel with Wie, pulled within one shot with a pair of early birdies. It fell apart on two holes. Thompson missed the green to the left on No. 8 — the worst spot at Pinehurst — and her first chip fell down the slope, leading to double bogey.
On the next hole, she went long over the green at the par-3 ninth, and chose to take relief she really didn’t need from a white line marking the TV tower. Thompson went to the drop zone, and her ball rolled a back into a divot. Worst yet, she still used her putter, and it hopped high out of the divot and had no chance to reach the green. She made another double bogey, then made three straight bogeys on the back nine.
Thompson shot 74 and was five shots behind.
Na Yeon Choi had a 71 and was in the group with Inkster at 2-over 212 along with Stephanie Meadow (69) and 18-year-old amateur Minjee Lee of Australia (72). Another shot back were So Yeon Ryu, who played her final 10 holes in 3 under for a 70, and Karrie Webb, who went the final 12 holes without a bogey for a 70.
“Michelle Wie has put a few of us back into the tournament,” Webb said. “Two hours ago, I didn’t think I had a shot. I’m pretty happy about that.”
Yang didn’t make a par until the eighth hole — she started with three bogeys and four birdies. She had the outright lead until a sloppy bogey on the 18th from the fairway. Even so, it’s another chance for the South Korean, who played in the final group two years ago with Choi and was runner-up.
“I’m much better at controlling my emotion and controlling the nervous feeling,” Yang said. “It’s going to be a fun round.”