SAN MARTIN –Lydia Ko will be chasing her third major title in 11 months on Sunday.
Trailing by three-strokes on moving day, Ko carded a two-under par 70 to take the outright lead heading into the final round at seven-under par. Ko broke out of a four-way tie at the top by draining a long putt at the 18th hole for her third birdie of the day.
"I think the biggest key around today -- well, the biggest difference was the wind. I know it was breezy from the mornings. I knew that it would play a lot tougher than yesterday, because the majority of my round yesterday was played in calm weather," Ko told the media. "So people, they say it's moving day on Saturday, but it was really tough out there, because the course is drying out, firming up. And it was tough to get near the pins on some holes."
Saturday night, Ko will sleep on the 54-hole lead for the 11th time in her career. The first and last time she held the lead entering the final round of a major championship was in June at the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship where she lost in a playoff to Brooke Henderson. Ko is a two-time major champion, having won the 2015 Evian Championship and 2016 ANA Inspiration, but came from behind to capture both titles, trailing by two and one strokes respectively. Ko has not finished inside the top-10 at the U.S. Women’s Open in her previous four starts, her best finish coming in a share of 12th in 2015.
36-hole leader Sung Hyun Park and Eun Hee Ji trail Ko by one-stroke. Park held the lead throughout much of the day despite a double bogey at the par 5, 9th hole. But she stumbled down the stretch, carding two bogeys in her final five holes to finish the day with a two-over par, 74.
Ji knows what it takes to win a major championship, having captured the 2009 U.S. Women’s Open for one of two victories on the LPGA Tour. She trailed by four-strokes heading into moving day and posted a two-under par, 70 to finish the day just one behind Ko.
Two-time U.S. Women’s Open runner-up Amy Yang stumbled on moving day, carding four bogeys en route to a one-over par, 73 to fall to five-under par for the championship and two-strokes back of the lead. Yang has held the 54-hole lead in this event the past two years but was unable to convert the win.
Tied with Yang at five-under par is Brittany Lang, who climbed into contention on moving day with the low round of the day, posting a four-under par, 68. Lang bounced back on Saturday after posting a 75 on Friday to fall from a share of fifth into a tie for 20th. Lang’s low round on Saturday puts her just two-strokes back of the lead heading into the final round at five-under par for the championship. The lowest rounds of the week have come from the morning wave and Lang says her early morning tee time on Saturday for helping her go low.
“Yeah, I thought I was going to shoot 5 or 6 under. I really felt good about it. I thought 9:00 was such a good time,” Lang told the media. “The greens were going to be soft and some of the pins accessible, and I was just playing really good. But I'm very happy with 4-under.”
With three-top 10 finishes in the U.S. Women’s Open, Lang has come close to capturing the season’s third major but knows she needs to stick to her normal routine on Sunday in order to keep the nerves at bay.
“Every part of you wants to be pulled to the outcome, to be pulled, oh, wow, wouldn't it be so great to win. And the more you think about that, the quicker you're going to move down the leaderboard,” said Lang. “You just have to have a lot of discipline. It's something I'm working on. I've only won once, so obviously I'm not doing a very good job with it. So it will be a good test tomorrow.”
Lang’s U.S. Solheim Cup teammate Angela Stanford trails her by one stroke on the leaderboard, sitting solo sixth at four-under par. Three-time winner in 2016, Ariya Jutanugarn, two-time major champion Stacy Lewis, rookie Gaby Lopez, Kris Tamulis, Cristie Kerr, Danielle Kang, Haru Nomura and Mirim Lee make up a group at two-under par in a share of seventh.
Lewis posted a three-under par, 69 on Saturday for one of the low rounds of the day after struggling to a second round 74 on Friday. She sits at two-under par for the championship and will lean on her 10 years of experience playing in this championship in order to try and catch the leaders on Sunday.
“It's getting harder and harder. The wind is the toughest part. That's what makes this golf course hard is the wind, and that continues to dry the greens out as the day goes on,” Lewis told the media. “I think you have to learn how to play the U.S. Open. You have to learn how to hang in there and you just give yourself a chance on Sunday. I've done that this week. I haven't played my best golf but I've hung around. This golf course you can make a double pretty quick with one golf swing. So I'm just going to keep hanging around and see what happens.”