Ariya Jutanugarn carries a formidable lead into the final round of U.S. Women’s Open after 67, while overnight leader Sarah Jane Smith stumbles to two-over 74.
Ariya Jutanugarn made her third round at the U.S. Women’s Open look easy, and her second career Major Championship almost inevitable.
Jutanugarn, 22, was in total control Saturday at Shoal Creek. She shot a five-under 67 and will take a four shot lead over Sarah Jane Smith into the final round which seems merely like a coronation.
The Thai star and former world No. 1 had to go out at 7:30 this morning to finish the final 10 holes of her second round. Teeing off eight hours later facing a three-shot deficit against Smith, Jutanugarn sent an early message with a birdie on the first. She followed with another birdie on the third, hit a good approach to the par-five 11th to set up another birdie, then was under-par on three straight holes beginning at the 13th. Her lone bogey came on the par-three 16th.
“My second round is not that good because I’m thinking about, like, trying to make birdie, try to play good. My third round just feel like, I’m not think about the outcome anymore, because there’s too much pressure and I don’t have fun anymore,” she said after her round. “So I just make sure I have good commitment every shot.”
Smith saw her lead, which was as much as six in the second round, completely disappear by the eighth hole. After consecutive rounds of 67 the first two days she failed to make a birdie and shot two-over 74. Her round wasn’t as disastrous as that of her playing partner and fellow Aussie, Su Oh. Oh struggled on her way to a six-over 78 and fell from third to a tie for 14th.
Despite facing a formidable disadvantage, Smith isn’t feeling any pressure. “I have nothing to lose tomorrow,” she said. “Hopefully I can go into tomorrow with that little but more confidence, not knowing this morning how I was going to handle [the nerves].”
That Jutanugarn is at the top of the leaderboard comes as no surprise. She has been in superb form this season, with nine top 10s in 13 events including the last four in a row. Two weeks ago she won the Kingsmill Championship, her eighth career LPGA win. Her lone Major came at the Women’s British Open in 2016. Prior to this week she only made the cut at the U.S. Women’s Open once in five appearances, a tie for 17th that same year.
Her week at Shoal Creek did not get off to a great start, however. She arrived at the course on Monday, but her clubs did not show up until the following day. That meant Jutanugarn was only able to practice on the back-nine Wednesday. She didn’t play the front-nine until her first round.
Even with her big lead, Jutanugarn insists she will not let up. “I haven’t had this situation for a while,” she said. “I’m pretty sure tomorrow is going to be a good day, even like I don’t know what the outcome is going to be. But I know what I’m going to take action on.”
Jutanugarn and Smith go off at 1:05 p.m. ET on Sunday.