Ariya Jutanugarn fires ahead in US Women’s Open

Ariya Jutanugarn took pole position in the US Women's Open with a masterful 67 in the third round at Shoal Creek

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Ariya Jutanugarn shot 67 in the third round of US Women's Open

LPGA Tour, June 03, 2018: The weather got nice, Shoal Creek got nasty, Ariya Jutanugarn got up early and 28 holes later she had a four-stroke lead going into the final round of the U.S. Women’s Open conducted by the USGA.

Jutanugarn was one of the first players to Shoal Creek on Saturday for the finish of the second round and absolutely the last to leave the practice range before the start of her third round. Now she will be in the final group on Sunday, trying for the second major championship of her young career.

On the nicest day of a week in which nearly 5 inches of rain has fallen, Shoal Creek was a reluctant host, offering up few low scores as the drying course yielded more mud balls to shots that no longer skidded off wet fairways. But the powerful Jutanugarn, again playing without a driver in her bag, attacked the 6,600-yard layout with 3-woods off the tee and turned in a masterful 67.

The 22-year-old ton of talent from Thailand goes into Sunday at 12-under-par 204 with 36-hole leader Sarah Jane Smith at 208 and Hyo Joo Kim at 210 followed by Jihyun Kim at 211. Madelene Sagstrom, who made an early run and got to 6-under par after six holes, was tied for fifth at 4-under-par 212 with Inbee Park and Carlota Ciganda.

SMITH MAY BE DOWN, BUT SHE KNOWS SHE’S NOT OUT

Seeing your name at the top of the leaderboard at a major championship is a daunting sight. For the last three days, Sarah Jane Smith was splashed across every leaderboard, website and publication talking about the 2018 U.S. Women’s Open, not to mention quickly becoming a crowd favorite thanks to her sweet smile and laid-back personality.

For a player who had never before led at a major or even played in the final group, the attention was daunting.

“I’m not used to the camera like right there,” said Smith. “I don’t know what to do. I don’t know where to look. Do I say hi? That’s something that’s kind of new. I’m used to cameras behind and that. It’s a lot maybe bigger this week than normal. It’s kind of just like write in my yardage book or something. That’s something to get used to.”

Smith showed a few signs of struggle on Saturday, carding back-to-back bogeys at 8 and 9 before parring in for a 2-over 74. What was a three-stroke lead over Ariya Jutanugarn became a four-stroke deficit for the 33-year-old Aussie, who pointed to her putting as the weak link. But as the old saying goes – it’s never over until it’s over.

“I know Ariya is going to go out and have a great day. That is a given,” said Smith, who will join Jutanugarn in the final group at 1:05 p.m. CDT. “Obviously I’m going to need a really good day tomorrow to have a chance. I showed early today that I can give myself a lot opportunities. If I have a good day on the greens, you never know.”

SAGSTROM’S SELF-HELP PAYS OFF

For the last month Madelene Sagstrom has been on a hiatus from social media. The break has given the Swede an opportunity to focus more on her golf, and the re-dedication is paying off. Saturday, Sagstrom made a move up the leaderboard with a 2-under 70 to sit at -4 heading into Sunday’s final round.

“I was really feeling the butterflies on the first tee this morning,” said Sagstrom. “I was like, ‘this is what I play for.”

In addition to her recommitment to her game, Sagstrom, a self-described ‘self-help’ nerd is listening to an audio meditation book. The second-year LPGA Tour member loves finding ways to challenge her mind and her golf, and is always looking for ways to improve.

This is an LPGA TOUR release

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