HOUSTON – The USGA has never played the ball up. Not once in 125 years. And that wasn’t going to change for the third round of the U.S. Women’s Open, no matter how much mud caked on golf balls at soggy Champions Golf Club.
2020 is an extraordinary year by every measure. But still not crazy enough to play lift, clean and place at a USGA major.
“There were about 18 of them,” said Amy Olson, when asked about her mud ball count. “I mean, at one point I laughed and it was like, is it going to be in a divot or a mud ball, because it was one or the other pretty much all day. So I’m really hoping that we either do lift, clean and place or it’s so wet tomorrow that the water just pulls the mud off, I don’t know.”
Olson trails Japan’s Hinako Shibuno by a single stroke heading into the final round of the 75thU.S. Women’s Open. The Smiling Cinderella led by three heading into the weekend but saw that advantage shrink considerably after a 3-over 74 at Cypress Creek.
“I myself was very nervous,” she admitted.
Shibuno shocked the golf world last year when she won the AIG Women’s British Open. While she’s still not yet a member of the LPGA (she declined membership), Shibuno has the chance to join Se Ri Pak and In Gee Chun as the only players in history to win majors as their first two LPGA titles.
A bogey on the 18th, however, brought a host of big names back into the mix for Sunday. Six players have come from as far back as five strokes to win this championship.
The group at 1 over includes current No. 1 Jin Young Ko, Ariya Jutanugarn, Sei Young Kim, and Cristie Kerr.
Ji Yeong Kim2 teed off in the last group on No. 10 on Saturday and managed to play her way into the penultimate group on Sunday off the first hole thanks to a bogey-free 67. The 24-year-old Korean LPGA player is making her USWO debut this week. Kim2’s 67 was the best score of the day by three shots. South Korea’s Hae Ran Ryu was the only other player (70) to break par.
“I really didn’t expect to be performing so well,” said Kim2 through an interpreter, “and I’m just glad to be here.”
— USGA (@USGA) December 12, 2020
A late-round double-bogey moved Moriya Jutanugarn down to a share of third, three strokes back. Moriya played alongside her younger sister, 2018 USWO champion Ariya, in the third round.
“Every time after I hit my tee shot,” said Ariya, “I look back, she like 30 behind, but she hit closer. And then when I hit on the green, she make the putt and I miss the putt. So it’s kind of made me feel like I have to work on a lot of things, I have to improve my game after I play with her.”
Only three players managed to stay under par through three rounds. Former No. 1 Lydia Ko is among those at even par, along with young rookie hotshot Yealimi Noh, who played the final group last week at the LPGA stop in Dallas, Megan Khang and Texas amateur Kaitlyn Papp.
“I was talking to (caddie) Les (Luark),” said Ko, “and we had some (mud) on one shot on No. 2 and it’s like, ‘Do I need to aim like on the next tee box for it to like move?’ Because it’s really hard … it’s not like there’s an exact science – or maybe there is, I just don’t know that I guess equation on how to factor mud balls.”
Inbee Park said she hit 3-wood seven or eight times into the greens, and nearly every single shot she dealt with a muddy ball.
The USGA moved tee times up for Sunday with more rain in the forecast. The final group goes off at 9:35 a.m. local time. Kerr, the 2007 champion, felt the course played fair on Saturday despite the conditions.
“Doubt USGA will play it up,” she said, “but they should consider it. It’s pretty muddy out there.”
Cypress Creek played to a 74.697 scoring average in the third round, more than a full stroke higher than Friday’s round.
Stacy Lewis’ bid to win a major in her hometown seemingly went up in smoke when she triple-bogeyed the par-4 14th after finding the hazard. A 6-over 77 dropped her to eight back of the lead.
Shibuno said she needed time to adjust to the overnight celebrity status she enjoyed after that first major championship victory. From the outside, at least, she looks comfortable being back in control at a major.
“Just recently I was able to get rid of my shell, so to speak,” she said, “so that I can be myself again.”
original article link https://golfweek.usatoday.com/2020/12/12/us-womens-open-mud-balls-soggy-saturday/