Photo courtesy of LPGA
Australia’s Sarah Jane Smith's hopes of capturing her maiden LPGA victory at the 73rd US Women's Open this week took a turn for the worst after the Queenslander could only manage a 2-over par third round 74 at Shoal Creek in Alabama this morning.
Smith had started the round with a three-shot buffer over Thai star Ariya Jutanugarn, and could only watch on as Jutanagarn put on a masterclass of magnificent ball-striking in the process shooting an impressive 5 under par 67.
Jutanagarn will now take a four-shot lead into the final round over Smith and a six-shot lead over Korean Hyo Joo Kim who sits alone in third place at 6 under par.
While the 33-year-old Smith will still feel she is in with a chance of capturing her first LPGA tournament tomorrow, she will probably need some assistance from the Thai player and a low final round herself if she is to contend.
Starting the third round with a three-shot lead, Smith could not get into her rhythm and failed to make a single birdie after having made 10 birdies and an eagle in the first 36 holes. Smith's bogeys came back to back at the 8th and 9th holes but she fought on bravely over the final nine holes to stay in touch.
The 22-year-old Jutanagarn, who already has eight LPGA titles to her credit including a major championship, the 2016 Women’s British Open, had the longest of days yesterday beginning with a 4:00 am alarm call to get to the course and complete her second round after weather delays on Friday, and immediately picked up one shot on Smith, who had slept with a four-shot lead.
By the time the pair had reached the 8th hole in their 3rd round Jutanugarn had made up the deficit and the pair were tied at nine-under par, and then at the ninth, she seized the outright lead when the Australian drove into trouble making her second consecutive bogey. Jutanagarn made another birdie at the par 5 11th hole to increase the lead, before making three straight birdies from the 13th hole to extend her lead to 5 shots. A disappointing three-putt at the par-three 16th reduced the lead to four.
Smith had a great chance to pull within three shots at the final hole, but her birdie putt cruelly burned the hole. It had been one of those days for the Aussie.
“I think the nerves showed up in my putting,” said Smith, "I didn’t feel too bad, but I think when you are not getting the ball to the hole it probably proves that you are not letting it go and a bit of freedom in the putting. Hopefully I can hit a few putts tonight and get that nice flow going for tomorrow.”
The other Australian hope, Victorian Su Oh, played in the final group with Smith and Jutanagarn but slipped outside the top 10 after a disappointing third-round 78.
Australia’s top-ranked player Minjee Lee had a tough third round, carding an 80 to sit tied at +7 in a tie for 48th, while Karrie Webb, Katherine Hull and amateur Robyn Choi all missed the halfway cut.
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