Fatigued Ariya takes four-shot lead

MIAMI • After waking up before daybreak to complete her second round at the US Women's Open, Thailand's Ariya Jutanugarn said she would have little trouble sleeping on Saturday night as she heads into the final round with a four-stroke lead.

Ariya, who had to rise at 4am to complete the weather-delayed second round at Shoal Creek before starting her third round, carded a five-under 67 for a 12-under 204 total and a healthy cushion over Sarah Jane Smith (74).

South Korean Kim Hyo Joo (68) was another two shots back in third place on a day when nobody else made a sustained challenge.

"I think I'm going to sleep pretty well because I didn't sleep much last night and I'm so tired right now," said Ariya, who started the third round three strokes adrift of Australian Smith. "I told myself to just go out and have fun and be really committed, and I did. My putting has been working pretty good. I didn't hit my tee shots very well, but it was a fun day."

Victory for the Thai would give her a second Major title after her 2016 Women's British Open triumph, and break the recent dominance at the US Women's Open by South Korean and American players, who have claimed the past 11 tournaments.

Ariya used her prodigious power to muscle her favourite three-wood tee shots past Smith's drives with regularity, and displayed a deft short game in a round that included only one blemish, a bogey at the par-three 16th.

Smith, who failed to get a single birdie but remains Ariya's closest pursuer at 208, said the Thai was a "spectacular player".

"She hits it a long way but her short game is impeccable," added the world No. 97, who is winless in 222 starts on the LPGA Tour.

"She rolls the ball beautifully. She's just the whole package. It was fun to watch her play.

"I know Ariya is going to have a great day (in the final round). That is a given. I'm going to need a really good day to have a chance."

Defending champion Park Sung Hyun missed the halfway cut with rounds of 76-77, and world No. 2 Feng Shanshan of China also exited early after rounds of 78-74.

REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 04, 2018, with the headline 'Fatigued Ariya takes four-shot lead'. Print Edition | Subscribe