South Korean Na Yeon Choi takes over at U.S. Women’s Open
BY HERB GOULD email@example.com July 7, 2012 8:24PM
Na Yeon Choi (above) is at 8-under 208 after three rounds of the U.S. Women’s Open. She has a six-shot lead on Amy Yang. | Elsa~Getty Images
AT A GLANCE
Na Yeon Choi 71-72-65—208
Amy Yang 73-72-69—214
Lexi Thompson 70-73-72—215
Mika Miyazato 71-71-73—215
Sandra Gal 71-70-74—215
Vicky Hurst 71-70-75—216
What a round: Na Yeon Choi, the fifth-ranked South Korean, had a remarkable round that put her at 8 under. Only four players have posted a lower round in the Open, and the 65 tied the lowest third-round score in the event’s history.
Round 2 leaders: Michelle Wie faded, shooting a 6-over 78 to fall to 2 over. Wie shot a 66 on Friday, putting her a stroke behind leader Suzann Pettersen. Pettersen also shot a 78 and slid to 1 over.
Today’s TV: 2 p.m., Ch. 5.
Updated: August 9, 2012 9:45AM
KOHLER, Wis. — Some things were different at the U.S. Women’s Open on Saturday.
Mother Nature finally turned down the cauldron from stifling triple digits to a pleasant 80-ish summer day at Blackwolf Run.
And some things remained the same.
If it’s the U.S. Open, especially at Blackwolf Run, a South Korean must be atop the leaderboard.
Looking as loose as Fred Couples, the diminutive Na Yeon Choi made seven birdies on her first 12 holes and shot a 7-under 65. She’s at 8-under 208 for the tournament and holds a six-shot lead on Amy Yang (69) heading into the final round Sunday.
‘‘I wasn’t nervous on the course,’’ said the slightly built Choi, who’s listed at 5-5. ‘‘I’m more nervous right now. I had a great time out there. Honestly, it will be a lot of pressure tomorrow. But I know what I have to do. I hope to just go out there and have fun, like today.’’
Lexi Thompson, 17, who’s tied for third at 1 under after shooting 72, is the top American challenger. But she knows seven shots is an awful lot of shots.
‘‘[Choi] is leading by a good amount, but I’m still going to go for it,’’ Thompson said. ‘‘I’m not going to just try to go after her. I’m going to play my own game and the golf course. That’s all I can do is focus on my game.’’
If Choi, who wore some pajama-like plaid pants John Daly would’ve been proud of, can finish the deal, she’ll be the fifth South Korean to win the U.S. Women’s Open in eight years.
Se Ri Pak started the South Korean era in 1998, when she won the Women’s Open at Blackwolf Run.
‘‘I was only 9 years old then, but I remember that feeling,’’ Choi said. ‘‘I want to give to all the Korean people what Se Ri did 14 years ago.’’
Second-round leader Suzann Pettersen stumbled to a 78 and is nine shots off the lead. Michelle Wie (78) and Cristie Kerr (77) —who were tied for second, one shot back, after 36 holes — also struggled mightily.
The final group of Pettersen and Wie played its round in five hours, 26 minutes, including a marathon three-hour, five-minute front nine.
‘‘It was hard to get a rhythm; it took forever to play,’’ said Pettersen, who was 5 over on the last six holes. ‘‘It feels bad to give away that many shots in that few holes. But it’s a U. S. Open.’’
Wie’s 66 on Friday had kindled hopes she might shake the tag of ‘‘the Danica Patrick of ladies golf.’’ But that probably will have to wait for another major.
‘‘Na Yeon had a really awesome score today,’’ Wie said. ‘‘We’ll see what happens. Par is a good score, but being so far back right now, you have to make some birdies out there tomorrow.’’
Anybody who’s not named Na Yeon Choi is going to have to make a bushel full of birdies.