July 07, 2019: Sung Hyun Park made her seventh birdie in 11 holes to build a three-shot lead and she still had a par 5 to play Saturday, a daunting position for those trying to catch the No. 1 player in the Thornberry Creek LPGA Classic.
It all changed so suddenly.
Park hit into the water on the par-5 15th and three-putted from about 20 feet for birdie. That was followed by a bogey on the next hole. Now the tournament is wide open going into the final round at the Thornberry Creek LPGA Classic.
Park had to settle for a 3-under 69, leaving her in a four-way tie for the lead with Shanshan Feng (65), Tiffany Joh (66) and Ariya Jutanugarn, who missed a 4-foot par putt late in her round and shot 67.
They were at 20-under 196.
“The swings weren’t that good,” Park said through a translator. “The play on the green wasn’t good, as well. But I’m relieved that today was just the third round, and I look forward to tomorrow’s round.”
Also very much in the mix is Yealimi Noh, the 17-year-old from California who turned down an offer to play at UCLA to turn pro this year without having a card on any tour. She got into Thornberry Creek through Monday qualifying and has played like she belongs.
Noh, who played in the final group with Park, matched her with a 69 and was one shot behind going into Sunday’s final round. She has worked hard enough and has the pedigree to not be surprised. Still, it was hard not to look around at her environment.
“It’s crazy,” Noh said. “I was always watching them on TV and seeing those names — and seeing my name up there and not having to scroll all the way down — it’s really weird. But it’s nice.”
Feng and Joh each bogeyed the opening hole and made up for it with a series of birdies and an eagle on the par-5 13th. They will be in the final group Sunday as Joh, a UCLA alum, goes after her first LPGA Tour victory.
Right in front of them will be Park and Jutanugarn, both major champions who have been No. 1 in the world and captured all the big awards on the LPGA Tour.
Twelve players were separated by five shots going into the last round on a course known to give up low scores. A year ago, Sei Young Kim won at 31-under par.
Jutanugarn was in position to win another major two weeks ago at Hazeltine until she failed to make birdie in the final round. Just like then, she is trying not to think about the outcome as much as hitting the shot in front of her.
Low scoring all around should help with that. Jutanugarn was asked what kind of score it would take to win and she replied, “I feel like everyone can shoot like 10 under tomorrow, so I don’t know.”
Park’s victory in Arkansas last week elevated her to No. 1, and she will be going after her third win of the year, and eighth on the LPGA Tour in just her third year.
“The third round wasn’t my best round, but I am still at the top of the leaderboard and there is still a chance for me to do well tomorrow,” Park said. “Although the leaderboard is crowded, I’ll try my best tomorrow and focus on every single shot.”
India’s Aditi Ashok carded six birdies and three bogeys in the third round to close with three-under 69, matching his second round score. Aditi lying at T51 at the end of third round with her three day total of 8-under-208.