Moving Day at the RICOH Women’s British Open surpassed expectations. Today’s leaderboard ups and downs, combined with the drama surrounding Sun-Ju Ahn’s rule violation, have set the stage for a first class cliffhanger on Sunday. Fifteen players are within five strokes of overnight leader Inbee Park, among them world ranked number 1 Stacy Lewis, number 4 Suzann Pettersen, and number 9 Shanshan Feng.
Sun-Ju Ahn was having a very good round today. She started at -2, trailing Mo Martin’s lead by 3 strokes, and she’d started the 18th hole five strokes under par for the day, -7 for the tournament. Martin and Beatriz Recari, playing behind her, both struggling through the round, had lost their competitive edge. Inbee Park, at -4, was trailing Ahn by a single stroke. The par-5 18th had been giving up birdies and it looked like Ahn was going to glide through the last hole and go into Sunday with a slim lead.
Then disaster struck. After all’s said and done, this is golf! Ahn sent her third shot on the par-5 18th into a deep greenside bunker. The ball landed on an uphill slope. In preparation for taking her shot Ahn shifted some sand to secure her stance.
Dottie Pepper, viewing from above the green in the broadcast booth, saw Ahn’s action — invisible to greenside officials — and called it building a stance. Officials reviewed the videotape after Ahn completed the hole and her round and concluded that Ahn had been building a stance as she shifted the sand.
Ahn, who holds 23 pro wins on the Korea and Japan LPGAs, explained her actions:
The ball was placed on a very upslope lie, so it was hard to make a stance. So what I was trying to do was fix a stance but after the review it was determined that I used my feet to try to make an even lie. But you know, my intent wasn’t to break the rules. It was just to set my feet firm in the sand just to be able to make the shot. But if that’s the rule, there was no intent and I can’t do anything about it.
Still, the decision carried a two stroke penalty which, combined with Ahn’s ultimate double on the 18th, sent her from the leading position tumbling down the board to -3 and a share of second place for her Sunday start.
Another Chance for Inbee Park
The Women’s British Open is the only Major that Inbee Park hasn’t won. The world ranked no. 3 player, Park, had been playing at even par this week and started the third round with a share of 10th place, trailing the lead by five strokes.
Park was having a decent round today. She was three strokes under par for the day at the turn and making some slow, steady progress in closing the gap. Then Martin and Recari both hit a slump on the back nine and things looked better. Park picked up another stroke on the back nine and it looked like she’d finish right behind Ahn and go into Sunday in 2nd place.
Ahn stumbled and Park suddenly was on the top of the board, going into the final round at -4 for the championship with a single stroke lead over Ahn, Suzann Pettersen, and Shanshan Feng and a very real possibility that she can collect that coveted Career Grand Slam that would catapult her into the history books alongside Louise Suggs, Mickey Wright, Pat Bradley, Juli Inkster, Karrie Webb, and Annika Sorenstam.
A Share of 2nd Place
Shanshan Feng started today at even par and Suzann Pettersen was at +1. Things got better for both of them. Feng carded a 69, ending her round with a pair of sweet birdies on 17 and 18; and Pettersen carded a 68, ending her round with a sweeter eagle on 17 and a birdie 18. They’re starting Sunday sharing 2nd place with Ahn.
Pettersen is particularly pleased with her Sunday starting position. Sidelined early in the season with a back injury, the world ranked no. 4 player has had a slow start, but she believe she’s hit her stride now:
Arkansas two weeks ago is when I started to feel good. It’s been a tough year for me but now I have no pain and I’m looking forward. I’m in a good place and I’m feeling good with my game so fun to be out there and I’m really enjoying this golf course.
Stacy Lewis: The Sunday Closer
Stacy Lewis rocketed up the leaderboard today from T16 start to a T7th finish. Lewis wasn’t entirely satisfied with her round, but Lewis is the quintessential Sunday closer and she seems to play harder when she’s coming from behind. Trailing Inbee Park’s lead by a mere 3 strokes, Stacy Lewis is still very much a contender for the championship.
Charley Hull: Round of the Day
Charley Hull went to bed Friday night at six strokes over par and on the board at T47 and she believed she still had a shot at the win. So that’s how she player her round today. She carded 66, the low round of the day, stayed clear of trouble and drama, and starts the final round in T7th, even with Stacy Lewis. The intrepid teen does indeed have a shot at victory on Sunday.
Although Mo Martin and Beatriz Recari are also starting Sunday at -1 and sharing seventh place, they’re probably not quite as please with that position as Stacy Lewis and Charley Hull. Mo Martin started Moving Day in the lead and Recari was in 2nd place. Martin has a shaky start to her round but really hit the skids after the turn. A double on the 11th followed by 3 consecutive bogeys drained the life out of her and she struggled to finish in red numbers. Recari also hit a string of bogeys on the back nine, dropped to even par, then got back into red with a birdie on 17.
Like Lewis and Hull, Martin and Recari are starting Sunday within reach of victory, but in this game that’s fueled by mental energy and internal optimism, they’re both going to need to do some intensive overnight headwork if they hope to stay in contention.
Final Round Schedule
Becky Brewerton and Hannah Jun Medlock lead off the final round of the Open at 6:50am local time. The final group, Inbee Park and Suzann Pettersen, tee off at 12:35pm local time. Rain and temperatures in the low 60s are forecast until late afternoon, creating challenging playing conditions.
BBC2 will broadcast the round live from 1-5pm local time. United States fans will be able to join the round in progress on ESPN2 beginning at 8am ET. My colleagues and I at ProGolfNow will also provide final round analyses later in the evening.