Former world No. 1 Ariya in hot pursuit of Green

Thailand's Ariya Jutanugarn was three shots behind Hannah Green after 16 holes but a birdie at the 17th, coupled with the Australian's bogey at the last, saw her reduce the deficit to one shot.
Thailand's Ariya Jutanugarn was three shots behind Hannah Green after 16 holes but a birdie at the 17th, coupled with the Australian's bogey at the last, saw her reduce the deficit to one shot. PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

MINNEAPOLIS • Hannah Green had her lead whittled down to one stroke, as Ariya Jutanugarn piled on the pressure in the third round of the Women's PGA Championship on Saturday.

A three-putt bogey at the final hole for a two-under 70 left the Australian with a slender advantage entering the final round at Hazeltine National in Chaska, Minnesota.

She posted a nine-under 207 total, while Thai Ariya compiled a 68 to go to eight under.

The former world No. 1 had been three shots behind after 16 holes but a birdie at the 17th, coupled with Green's blemish at the last, reduced what had been a comfortable advantage for the first-and second-round leader, with Americans Nelly Korda (69) and Lizette Salas (68) in joint-third, four shots behind.

Green, in search of her first LPGA victory in her second season on the Tour, could become the third wire-to-wire winner of the championship. The world No. 114 did not drive the ball well, but was in fine form with her irons and still hit 17 greens in regulation.

"Pretty disappointing to end with a three-putt. That's my first one all week," said the 22-year-old from Perth. "I was kind of struggling with my pace a little bit coming down the stretch, leaving some putts short in the heart."

Adding that Ariya had been the perfect playing partner, she told reporters: "Surprisingly, I wasn't nervous on the first tee.

"I wasn't really sure whether she would be a person who likes to talk on the golf course in between and she was lovely. She was asking me questions about things back (in) Australia and vice versa.

"Talking to her in between shots really calmed my nerves as well just to feel like she wasn't as intimidating as her record would show.

"It's my first time in this position, so I feel like I will be a little bit nervous. I need to just slow things down and take my time and make sure I'm not rushing into any shots."

Ariya, who has 10 LPGA victories, including two Majors - last year's US Women's Open and the 2016 Women's British Open - was also happy with her form at the tournament so far, admitting to "feeling so free", before promising to "fight and keep doing that until the last hole".

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 24, 2019, with the headline 'Former world No. 1 Ariya in hot pursuit of Green'. Print Edition | Subscribe