SINGAPORE: World number one Ariya Jutanugarn carved up the third round of the HSBC Women’s World Championship Saturday, signing off with six birdies and no slip-ups in a six-under-par 66 that edged the Thai star one stroke in front of the field.
While several rivals had sniffed the lead only to shy away from down the stretch, Jutanugarn put her head down and got the job done, backing up three birdies on the front nine with three more in her run to the clubhouse to finish on an 11-under 205.
“I’ve been playing pretty good this week but one thing I have to keep doing [is] just focus on the things I can control,” said the 23-year-old Thai.
Jutanugarn had no bogeys and no worries with the hard greens that troubled many at the Sentosa Golf Club this week – through a chance for a birdie and a two-shot break at the last hole went wide.
Australia’s world number three Minjee Lee – one back after posting 67 on Saturday – could be the one to worry Jutanugarn most come the final day of the US$1.5 million LPGA tournament.
Both have been paired together each day of competition so far, with a final round catch-up on the horizon.
“She’s such a great golfer,” said Jutanugarn of Lee.
“I feel like she makes everything and plays so well the last three days.”
Lee, 22, has managed several birdie blitzes of her own on the course this week.
But occasional bogies – as on the par-three seventh and the par-four 11th on Saturday – that have held her back so far.
Both times Lee left herself with too much work to do on the greens.
The feeling is that if it all falls into place for Lee come Sunday, there just might be fireworks.
“I feel like I’m hitting it pretty solid,” she said.
“I probably hit a couple drives here and there that I sort of sprayed a little bit. So if I can get that straightened out and hole a couple more putts, then I think I’ll be alright.”
England’s Jodi Ewart Shadoff has quietly gone about her business in Singapore and sits alone in third overnight after a blemish-free round of her own.
Four birdies and a 68 leave the 31-year-old on nine-under and said afterwards she had warmed instantly to the speed of the greens.
“I like the pace,” she said.
“[I’ll] just stay in the moment and not get ahead of myself.
“I’m striking the ball well and hitting a lot of fairways. As long as I stick to the task at hand, I’ll hopefully do well.”
A pack of four are tied for fourth, three strokes behind Jutanugarn on eight-under par.
Overnight leader Amy Olson was left to rue a double-bogey five on the fourth in a roller-coaster of a day that saw the American sign for a one-under 71.
It left her level with Spain’s Azahara Munoz (69) and the Korean pair of Kim Hyo-Joo (67) and Ko Jin-Young (66).