As her competitors faltered down the stretch coming in, Sei Young Kim brought her best golf with birdies on Nos. 16 and 17 and a par on 18 to take a three-shot lead into the final round of the ANA Inspiration at 10-under-par. Kim’s earliest golf memories are of watching this major championship from Korea when Grace Park jumped into Poppie’s Pond.
“If I were to win it tomorrow, it would be the biggest dream ever to come true for me,” Kim said through a translator. “You know, just because, I’ve watched this tournament since I was young. That’s why I feel I want it so much more, and I think the opportunity is there in front of me, and if I can, I definitely want to get my hand on it, and for sure it won’t be bad jumping into that pond tomorrow.”
Heading into the 15th hole Saturday it was actually Rolex Rankings No. 3 Stacy Lewis that had stormed into a one-shot lead at 9-under-par but Lewis bogeyed Nos. 15 and 17 and trails by three in solo second. Morgan Pressel also owned a share of the lead at 8-under-par at one point during the back nine but the closing stretch got the best of her, too, with bogeys on No. 16 and 17 coming in.
“Coming in there, I didn’t make some of the best swings ever,” Lewis said. “Definitely didn’t deserve bogey on 15, so I was pretty happy making bogey there truthfully. 17, just kind of misjudged the wind and hit a wrong club there, and then the green is really bumpy down there by the hole. But all in all, it was a good, solid day. Didn’t really have to work too hard, which is good.”
Lewis will have to work hard tomorrow though to earn her second robe and third career major championship. In her 2011 victory here, her first major win, Lewis came from two strokes behind to beat Yani Tseng. It’s a familiar position for Lewis to find herself in - chasing on a Sunday. Sei Young Kim can’t say the same. Kim said she does her best work chasing from behind and has never led at a major championship, this being only her third appearance in a major ever.
“I feel a bit pressured right now,” Kim said through a translator. “Back in Korea when I was playing on the Korean Tour, I was known for coming from behind and winning tournaments. But to be in the lead going into the final round on the LPGA is fairly new for me. So yeah, I feel some pressure there.”
It’s an interesting position the rookie Kim finds herself in playing in the final group of a major with one of the players she remembers watching from Korea jump into Poppie’s Pond here. It’s only her 13th LPGA start and she leads at a major championship after already winning earlier this year in a playoff at the Pure Silk Bahamas LPGA Classic.
But Kim came from behind in the Bahamas. This time she’s got Lewis on her heels.
“You know, it’ll just be – she’s just a dominating force out there,” Kim said through a translator. “I’d probably even chicken out in starting a conversation. But you know, just to be able to play with her on the final day, it’s an honor.”
The leading European player is Sweden's Anna Nordqvist, currently tied 9th at four-under-par. Spain's Carolotta Ciganda is a shot further back on three-under-par, while Scotland's Catriona Matthew and Ireland's Stephanie Meadow share 19th place on two-under-par. England's Charley Hull is in the group on one-under-par.
ANOTHER DAY, ANOTHER STREAK EXTENDED FOR KO
Although Lydia Ko snapped her consecutive sub-par round streak yesterday in the second round after a1-over 73, the 17-year wunderkind extended another impressive statistic stretch on Saturday. With her only birdie of the day coming from an 8-foot putt on the 18th hole, Ko has now recorded a birdie in every single round she has played in which now total 191 rounds. The New Zealander said she wasn’t aware of that streak either and jokingly thanked the media for bringing it to her attention.
“No. Thanks, guys,” said Ko. “It’s always some statistic that’s going to get in my tail. But yeah, I didn’t know that. Lucky thing that I birdied the 18th. It happened to me last year, too. I hadn’t birdied all day and then made a birdie on 18 to kind of get that going. It’s good that I’m at least counting a couple strokes off the scorecard today.”
Ko was 3-over through 17 holes and with her lone birdie got back to 2-under par for the day. She currently sits 12 shots off the lead and in a tie for 48th at 2-over par. Ko said she hasn’t been able to see as many putts drop as she’d like so far.
“Hopefully for more putts to drop tomorrow,” said Ko. “I think obviously I would love to hit it closer and hit more fairways and all that, but it’s not going to be perfect. Even if I just carry on my long game and just hope for a couple more putts to drop, I know that I’ll be reducing a couple shots from today.”
There have been a few sister duos who have competed in events together on the LPGA Tour but there have been very few opportunities for sisters to do what the Jutanugarn sisters can do on Sunday at the ANA Inspiration.
Ariya and Moriya Jutanugarn will try to become only the third set of sisters to each record a top-10 finish in the same major championship. The last time it happened was here at Mission Hills in 1999 when Charlotta Sorenstam finished fifth and Annika Sorenstam finished seventh.
After shooting a 66 on Saturday, Ariya Jutanugarn enters Sunday’s final round in a tie for third at six-under-par while her sister, Moriya, is one shot back in a tie for sixth at five-under-par.