The third round of the Ricoh Women’s British Open ended in drama on Saturday when the leader, Sun-Ju Ahn, was given a two stroke penalty on the final hole at Royal Birkdale Golf Club.
Ahn was taking her third shot from an uphill lie within the bunker short and left of the 18th green when television crews reported that she had used her feet to move the sand down the side of the bunker in an effort to get her feet on the same level and she was penalised under decision 13-3/3. She viewed the TV coverage of the incident and graciously accepted the penalty.
The 26-year-old Ahn, with 23 professional wins on the LPGAs of Japan and Korea, had birdied the third hole and bogeyed the fifth before picking up three birdies on the back nine, at holes 13, 15 and 16. She then made a par on the last for a 69, which would have seen her finish on five-under-par, but after the application of the two stroke penalty, her third round score was revised to 71 for a total of three-under-par.
That left her one stroke behind fellow South Korean Inbee Park, who shot 68 for a total of four-under-par, and alongside Suzann Pettersen and Shanshan Feng in a share of second going into the final round.
“It’s disappointing but it’s my mistake,” said Ahn. “I still have a day to go and I have to stay focused and try my best tomorrow. I didn’t know about the rule but all I was trying to do was make a stance. I’m surprised by it, but if that’s the rule, I just have to abide by it and refocus.
“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.”
Four-time major winner Park, who won the first three majors of 2013, could celebrate her 26th birthday by putting herself in the perfect position to win the championship for the first time.
Park said: “We can see from the scores that it’s moving day. The first two days I didn’t hit the shots well enough to get the results I wanted but today my ball striking was great today and I didn’t miss any greens.
“A couple of three putts for a bogey and I missed a short putt for a birdie on the last. Those three shots are left out there but I got off to a great start. The first four holes here are really difficult but I had a great start and am in a great position for tomorrow.”
Pettersen, who claimed her second major victory at last year’s Evian Championship, was back in the hunt following a round of 68, containing three straight birdies from the sixth hole, two bogeys on 13 and 15, an eagle on 17 and a birdie on 18.
Having missed the first major of the year due to back injuries, Pettersen is hoping to make up for lost time.
She said: “I've been pretty good now since the U.S. Open and I'm looking forward and I'm in good shape and I have no worries.”
Pettersen won her first career major at the 2007 McDonald’s LPGA Championship and she added: “There's definitely a little bit of wanting to try and win all five majors by the time my career is over. And I feel like my game is suitable for all different courses. You've just really got to adjust and play smart and adjust accordingly. I'm right where I want to be for tomorrow but who knows, I'll go out tomorrow and give it my all but at the same time play smart.”
Amelia Lewis and Julieta Granada share fifth place on two-under-par going into the final round, while there are seven further players, including England’s Charley Hull, a stroke further behind in a tie for seventh place.
Hull dazzled the home galleries on Saturday morning with a six-under-par 66, containing nine birdies, including twos on all four of the par threes.
Although she had struggled on the last hole in the first two rounds, losing two balls out of bounds resulting in scores of six and seven respectively, she finally mastered the hole, making a chip and a putt for birdie from the back of the green.
Only three strokes behind Park going into the final round, Hull said: “After yesterday’s round, I heard I think, Peter Alice said that this golf course is too hard for us - but it’s not today!
“I can still win it if I have a good day tomorrow. If the wind gets up tomorrow, even par could win it,” she said.
There have been only two home winners of the Ricoh Women’s British Open since the championship was designated a major in 2001: Karen Stupples in 2004 and Catriona Matthew in 2009. There have been seven British winners of the championship in total, with the inclusion of Jenny-Lee Smith (1976), Vivienne Saunders (1977), Janet Melville (1978), Laura Davies (1986) and Alison Nicholas (1987). Four British women have won major championships: Davies, Nicholas, Catriona Matthew and Karen Stupples.
If Hull were to win, she would be the youngest ever major champion, aged 18 years, three months and 23 days, six-and-a half months’ younger than Morgan Pressel, who won the 2007 Kraft Nabisco Championship aged 18 years, 10 months and nine days. She would also become only the fifth teenager to win a major, after Pressel, Lexi Thompson, Yani Tseng and Inbee Park.
In the race for the Smyth Salver for the leading amateur, Emma Talley of the United States goes into the final round in a share of 38th place on five-over-par and two strokes ahead of England’s Georgia Hall, who shared the prize with Lydia Ko last year.
Collated scores at the end of round 3:
212 - Inbee Park (KOR) 72 72 68
213 - Shanshan Feng (CHN) 73 71 69, Suzann Pettersen (NOR) 72 73 68, Sun-Ju Ahn (KOR) 75 67 71
214 - Julieta Granada (PAR) 72 70 72, Amelia Lewis (USA) 72 71 71
215 - So Yeon Ryu (KOR) 71 70 74, Mo Martin (USA) 69 69 77, Amy Yang (KOR) 71 72 72, Beatriz Recari (ESP) 74 67 74, Eun-Hee Ji (KOR) 74 70 71, Charley Hull (ENG) 73 76 66, Stacy Lewis (USA) 71 74 70
216 - Marina Alex (USA) 72 76 68, Angela Stanford (USA) 74 72 70, Gwladys Nocera (FRA) 73 70 73
217 - Lydia Ko (NZL) 72 76 69, Jessica Korda (USA) 72 72 73, Ai Miyazato (JPN) 72 73 72
218 - Jiyai Shin (KOR) 72 75 71, Meena Lee (KOR) 73 75 70, Azahara Munoz (ESP) 72 72 74, Ariya Jutanugarn (THA) 75 68 75, Rikako Morita (JPN) 75 75 68, Sophie Giquel-bettan (FRA) 76 69 73, Jenny Shin (KOR) 73 72 73, Chella Choi (KOR) 73 73 72
219 - Karine Icher (FRA) 76 72 71, Ayako Uehara (JPN) 68 79 72, Morgan Pressel (USA) 70 74 75, Laura Davies (ENG) 75 72 72, Paula Creamer (USA) 75 73 71
220 - Mika Miyazato (JPN) 78 72 70, Lee-Anne Pace (RSA) 75 73 72, Erina Hara (JPN) 73 74 73, Brittany Lincicome (USA) 76 72 72, Miki Saiki (JPN) 76 71 73
221 - Anna Nordqvist (SWE) 72 78 71, Jeong Jang (KOR) 73 74 74, Giulia Sergas (ITA) 76 73 72, Emma Talley (USA) 72 73 76
222 - Pornanong Phatlum (THA) 73 74 75, Carlota Ciganda (ESP) 74 75 73, Nikki Campbell (AUS) 77 72 73, Mina Harigae (USA) 70 78 74, Brittany Lang (USA) 73 75 74
223 - Diana Luna (ITA) 76 72 75, Xi Yu Lin (CHN) 74 74 75, Ayaka Watanabe (JPN) 76 72 75, Thidapa Suwannapura (THA) 76 74 73, Belen Mozo (ESP) 77 72 74, Georgia Hall (ENG) 73 72 78, Kristy Mcpherson (USA) 74 76 73, Sarah Kemp (AUS) 70 79 74
224 - Dori Carter (USA) 73 76 75, Alison Walshe (USA) 74 76 74, Vikki Laing (SCO) 78 68 78, Haru Nomura (JPN) 75 73 76, Jee Young Lee (KOR) 76 72 76
225 - Beth Allen (USA) 77 73 75, Christina Kim (USA) 79 71 75
226 - Austin Ernst (USA) 76 73 77, Alena Sharp (CAN) 74 76 76, Il Hee Lee (KOR) 76 74 76, Valentine Derrey (FRA) 79 70 77
227 - Hannah Jun (USA) 75 71 81, Hee Young Park (KOR) 76 72 79, Lexi Thompson (USA) 72 77 78, Ji Young Oh (KOR) 76 73 78
228 - Becky Brewerton (WAL) 77 73 78
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