BEDMINSTER, New Jersey (Reuters) - Shanshan Feng snapped a run of 23 consecutive pars with a birdie at the 18th to reclaim the lead over a wave of South Korean challengers heading into Sunday’s final round of the U.S. Women’s Open at Trump National.
China’s Feng broke a three-way tie with a three-foot birdie putt after missing chances from 10 feet and twice from 12 feet in the closing holes, posting a one-under 71 for a total of nine-under-par 207 at Trump National Golf Club.
Amy Yang and 17-year-old amateur Choi Hye-jin were tied one stroke back, with long-hitting fellow Korean Park Sung-hyun two further shots away.
Another three South Koreans, world number one Ryu So-yeon (71), Lee Mi-rim (67) and Lee Jeong-eun (73), were another stroke back at five-under.
Former champion Cristie Kerr shot 70 to stand as the leading American player at four under par, a total she shared with Spain’s Carlota Ciganda (72).
Feng, trying to complete a wire-to-wire victory, was frustrated by her putting until the par-five last.
“Putting didn’t really work today,” said Feng, winner of seven LPGA Tour events including the 2012 LPGA Championship. “I just couldn’t get the line and the speed together. And then I was like, ‘let’s go to Plan B.’
“Plan B ... I try to hit the ball closer to the holes so I don’t need to worry about making the putts. And 16 and 17 I hit great shots into the green but I guess they weren’t close enough so I still missed them.
“Then on 18th I was like, ‘let’s hit them little more closer’ and I hit it to three feet and finally I made a putt. That birdie made my day.”
Feng was caught late in the round by Yang and Choi.
Yang, a top-four finisher in the last three Women’s Opens, rolled in a 20-foot left-to-right birdie curler at the 17th, while number two ranked amateur Choi sank a long birdie putt at the par-three 16th.
Yang, 27, said all her near misses at the championship would not get her down.
“I’ll keep trying. I’m playing good, and I’m hitting the ball solid and making some putts.
“I’m going to do the same things and see what happens.”
Choi said being paired with Yang had been a big help.
“She is definitely experienced player,” Choi said through an interpreter.
“So, playing next to her definitely helps me to be more inspired by her play and try to push myself to be good as her.”
The 23-year-old Park, a seven-time winner on the Korean LPGA Tour last year, was three shots back after tearing up the closing nine with six birdies for a 67 and a six-under total.
Park was in contention last year at the Women’s Open at CordeValle but finished third.
“I don’t have any regrets,” she said through an interpreter. “I think that was a valuable experience, precious experience for me.”
Reporting by Larry Fine; Editing by Andrew Both/Greg Stutchbury