Inbee Park remained atop the leaderboard in the Olympic Games with a one-under par, 70 to lead by two-strokes ahead of New Zealand’s Lydia Ko and USA’s Gerina Piller.
On day three, the Republic of Korea’s top-ranked player remained in control of her game and minimized her mistakes in windy conditions while her competitors struggled. With bogeys at the 12th and 14th holes Park fell back into a share of the lead with Piller, but rebounded with birdies at the 16th and 17th to pull three-strokes clear of the field, only to drop a shot at the last.
Winning a medal on Saturday would cap off an incredible career for Park, who is a seven time major champion, Career Grand Slam winner and the youngest player to qualify for the LPGA Tour Hall of Fame at the age of 27. Just as impressive has been her performance. This week, Park is making just her second competitive start since the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship in June due as she's continued to rehab an ongoing left thumb injury. In Rio, the former world No.1 has showed few signs of rust and displayed the same dominance for which she has become known during her 10 seasons on the LPGA Tour.
Piller went out in 31 to move into a share of the lead with Park during the final stretch at 10-under par, but made bogey at the last to finish the day at nine-under par. The Solheim Cup star posted a three-under par, 68 on Friday to move into medal contention in hopes of standing atop the podium on Saturday, which would be the highlight of Piller’s career. She has yet to win on the LPGA Tour but has come closer in 2016 than ever before, posting eight, top-10 finishes so far this season. She’s joined in Rio by fellow Americans Lexi Thompson and Stacy Lewis, who struggled on Friday and carded rounds of five-over par, 76.
Ko made a charge on Friday, weathering the tough conditions to card the low round of the day with a bogey-free, six-under par 65 which included her first career hole-in-one. The world No.1 made ace from 140 yards at the par three, eighth hole, but it wasn’t the first of the day. An hour before Ko holed out, China’s Xi Yu Lin made ace at the same hole as well. Ko sits just two-strokes back of Park at nine-under par and is well positioned to secure an Olympic medal, which would be just the latest achievement in what has already been an impressive season for the 19-year-old. Ko is already a four-time winner in 2016 on the LPGA Tour including her major victory at the ANA Inspiration. She will defend her title next week at the Canadian Pacific Women’s Open where she is a three-time winner.
First round leader Ariya Jutanugarn withdrew following the 13th hole on Friday due to a knee injury. She had kinesiology tape around her left knee and was 12-over par for the day when she left the competition.
Charley Hull reached T2 during the early part of the third round but faded away on the back nine with a run of bogeys to card a three-over par 74, which leaves her sitting six shots off the pace. Irish amateur Leona Maguire also posted a 74 and at even for the tournament she shares 24th place, while her teammate, Stephanie Meadow, sits two places further back following a level par round.
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