PINEHURST, N.C. – Michelle Wie remained at the top of the leaderboard following a third-round 2-over par 72 performance in the 2014 U.S. Women’s Open on Course No. 2 at Pinehurst Resort and Country Club on Saturday.
However, she had to make room for Amy Yang to join her as the pair sat at 2-under par overall to lead the remaining field into Sunday’s final round.
Earlier in the day, Julie Inkster, the oldest competitor in the field (53 years old) with the most career appearances (35) in the USGA championship, posted the low-round-of-the-day – a 4-under 66 to sit tied for third place at +2.
Inkster’s 66 was the low round of the championship so far and the second-lowest round posted in U.S. Women’s Open history in the last 10 years.
“It’s great,” Inkster said of being in contention on Sunday.
“I’m going to be right in the mix. I don’t know how they’ll finish. They’ve got a lot of holes left. Let’s just say I’m in a lot better shape today than I was yesterday. I knew I had to come out here, if I wanted to do anything, and have a good round and I was able to put it together today. So who knows tomorrow. I’m just going to enjoy it. It’s a great golf course, so enjoy the walk.”
Yang’s third-round 68 was the second-lowest round of the day and wasn’t surprising considering that she has led the field with 13 birdies through 54 holes.
She finished with six birdies and four bogeys on the day.
“I had a really great round today,” Yang said.
“I started with bogey, but I hit two birdies straight after that. Kind of started like up-and-down, but later towards the back nine I was hitting the ball much more solid, like better than yesterday. I think I putted really well, too. I’m really happy about my round today.”
As Wie completed her 10th hole with a birdie and led the field at 6-under par, her work off the tee soon put in her bad positions between the 11th and 14th.
She double-bogeyed 11, and then bogeyed 12 and 14 before scoring par on her remaining holes to minimize any further damage to her score.
“The front nine was great,” Wie said.
“I just didn’t drive it well in a couple of holes on the back nine. It’s hot out there. I think I need to maybe warn up a little less tomorrow because I felt like I was really tired. I made the turn and felt really tired out there. Felt hot for a while out there….It’s definitely a grind. It’s not an easy golf course. Still 2-over today, I still can’t complain. Obviously there were a couple of shots I wanted back, and I felt I could do better, but at the same time I really grinded out there and I tried my best. I’m happy with that.”
Wie’s playing partner, Lexi Thompson, started the day at 1-under par overall and trailed Wie by three strokes.
Thompson experienced difficulties throughout her round, carding two doubles and four bogeys while earning back four birdies to post a final 4-over par 74.
“I think it was just an off day,” Thompson said.
“I started off well and I made a bad mess on No. 8. I actually hit a perfect shot on 9; it just went about three or four yards too far. And I had a bad drop – it went right in a hole. Got a little unlucky, but I didn’t ball strike it very well and I missed a few short putts.”
For Wie, being in contention after 54-holes is nothing new as she did it back in the 2005 and 2006 U.S. Women’s Open and has 10 top-10 finishes in major championships since 2003.
Yang is equally up to the task and will fare as a formidable finishing opponent who owns nine top-10 finishes of her own in majors since 2009.
“I think she really wants it,” Wie said of Yang.
“So I think tomorrow is going to be a great battle. I’m just going to go out and just try and play my own game and not focus so much on other players.”
2014 U.S. Women’s Open Leaderboard (uswomensopen.com)