LYTHAM ST ANNES: Thailand’s Pornanong Phatlum showed no signs of nerves as she retained her overnight lead with a third-round 69 at the Women’s British Open at Royal Lytham and St Annes on Saturday.
On 13-under-par, she led by one from English home favourite Georgia Hall, with South Korea’s Ryu So-yeon a further shot back on 11-under.
Hall, who holed a string of great putts, had five birdies in a 69 to maintain high hopes of improving on last year’s tie for third and become the first British winner since Scotland’s Catriona Matthew triumphed at Lytham nine years ago.
Pornanong has missed six cuts from seven previous appearances in the championship and her best result in a major is a tie for seventh in the 2014 US Women’s Open.
But after two scores of 67 sent her one stroke ahead of the field at the halfway point, the 28-year-old had another exquisite round of four birdies. Her only error in 54 holes came with a bogey at the short 12th, where she failed to get up and down from a bunker.
Attired in a brightly patterned skirt and using a pink ball, Pornanong certainly brought some colour to the championship. And her game shone.
She hardly missed a fairway and holed putts for birdies on the third, sixth, eighth and 11th greens.
“I feel very happy right now,” she said after the round. “I was a bit nervous but enjoyed it. I’m playing with a lot of confidence. My record isn’t good in the British, but I get more experience every year.
“I’m going to try and keep doing the same things tomorrow and try and stay relaxed.”
Hall was not at her best on Saturday.
“My long-game timing was out on the first nine, but I was pleased with three-under,” said the 22-year-old, who holed from 12 feet for birdie at the last. “It was hard work, but I was so happy with the way I was putting.
“I did more putting than normal before I went out and I think that was the key. I’ll do the same tomorrow. It was also so nice having so much support from the crowd.”
Ryu shoots 67
Ryu, a two-time major winner, made a Saturday move with a joint-best-of-the-day 67. Two-over after four holes, she then hit a purple patch with birdies at five out of six holes from the fifth. More followed at the 12th and 15th.
“I first played this tournament in 2012 and, since then, it’s become the one that I want to win,” said the 2011 US Women’s Open winner, who added a second major at the 2017 ANA Inspiration.
“There is so much tradition and history. Today I started putting poorly and then started to make everything. I’m in a good position going into Sunday.”
Australia’s Minjee Lee and Japan’s Mamiko Higa were tied for second with Hall overnight and they both shot 71 to slip to joint-fourth on 10-under alongside South Korea’s Park Sung-hyun (69).
Kim In-kyung, the defending champion, fell back to one-under-par after a disappointing 74, while world number one Ariya Jutanugarn, the 2016 winner, had a fine 69 for six-under.
Atthaya Thitikul, the only amateur to make the cut, had a tough day. The 15-year-old Thai propped up the field after a 79 for seven-over-par.