Koreans lead late charge

Chella Choi looking pleased with her tee shot on the 14th hole during the third round of the US Women's Open. Her nine birdies were the most in a round at the tournament since 1999.
Chella Choi looking pleased with her tee shot on the 14th hole during the third round of the US Women's Open. Her nine birdies were the most in a round at the tournament since 1999.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Amy Yang seeking first Major win while Chella Choi steals the show with nine birdies

LANCASTER (Pennsylvania) • South Korea continue to dominate the headlines at the 70th US Women's Open thanks to the exploits of Amy Yang and Chella Choi.

Yang, 24, seeking her first major golf title, fought off a late challenge by American Stacy Lewis on Saturday to retain a three-shot lead heading into the final round at Lancaster Country Club.

She shot a one-under 69 for a 54-hole total of eight-under 202, while world No. 3 Lewis' 69 left her at five under for the championship.

Compatriot Chun In Gee was third on 206 and Japan's Shiho Oyama fourth, another stroke adrift.

Choi, meanwhile, made six birdies on the front side for a 29, the lowest nine-hole score in tournament history, and signed for a 64 to join a pack in fifth at 208 that includes defending champion Michelle Wie and Koreans Lee Mi Hyang and world No. 1 Park In Bee.

Choi's score included a three-foot par putt that lipped out on the 18th which would have matched the tournament's record of 63 set by Sweden's Helen Alfredsson in 1994.

Yang, who shared the 54-hole lead last year at Pinehurst only to lose to Wie, hopes to become the event's sixth South Korean winner in eight years.

"I don't want to think too much ahead, but it would be a great thing for my golf career," she said about the possibility of claiming her maiden Major.

She and Lewis, who were both within range of winning their first US Open crown last year, were paired in yesterday's final round. Their third-round duel had the feel of matchplay.

"I had a tough time getting the right speed on the green, but I've hit the ball great this week. I'll take positives from there," Yang said. "My coach and I, we have practised hard this week. I believe I can do well."

She enjoyed a four-stroke lead after she birdied the par-five 13th hole to reach nine under par and was threatening to make it a romp.

But a two-shot swing at the par-four 14th tightened the leader board as Yang bogeyed after a strong chip past the cup, while Lewis birdied to close within two.

A three-putt bogey by the American at the 17th hole restored Yang's three-stroke lead.

Said two-time Major winner Lewis: "I felt like I hit some great shots that put a lot of pressure on her, and then she just would respond and hit it right in there with me. There were multiple times today that it was iffy who was away.

"We were hitting shots on top of each other. In a sense it's frustrating, because you're trying to get closer but you really can't get any closer. We both played really well today given the circumstances, and I expect more of it tomorrow."

No player has ever rallied from more than five shots down in the last round to win the US Open.

Choi's nine birdies were the most in a US Open round since Canada's Lori Kane had nine in the second round in 1999.

Said Choi: "I made birdie a lot, so my putting was good. I think my shot is really good always, but before tournament I changed my putter so I have confidence."

Wie limped at times over the hilly layout but said she still figures she has a chance to become only the eighth back-to-back winner.

Said the American, who has had to cope with ankle and hip trouble: "It's definitely a little painful, but I'm good to go tomorrow. I've put myself in position where I have a chance."

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 13, 2015, with the headline 'KOREANS LEAD LATE CHARGE'. Print Edition | Subscribe