Ariya Jutanugarn turned a three-shot deficit into a four-shot lead after shooting five-under-par 67 Saturday in the third round of the United States Women’s Open.
Jutanugarn, a 22-year-old from Thailand, started the third round behind Australia’s Sarah Jane Smith, but quickly gained ground, making two birdies on her first three holes.
Jutanugarn took the lead after Smith stumbled with back-to-back bogeys and then surged ahead with three straight birdies on the back nine. She was at 12-under 204 for the tournament.
Smith started the tournament with back-to-back 67s, but she shot a 74 in the third round and didn’t make a birdie to fall into second place.
“I think the nerves showed up in my putting,” Smith said. “I didn’t feel too bad, but I think when you are not getting the ball to the hole it probably proves that you are not letting it go.”
South Korea’s Hyo-Joo Kim was in third after shooting 68 and was six shots back.
It was a long, sweaty day at Shoal Creek, especially for those who had to complete their second round on Saturday morning before playing the third. Jutanugarn said she had a 4 a.m. wakeup call and played a total of 28 holes as the temperature hovered around 90 degrees and combined with stifling humidity.
Jutanugarn didn’t seem to mind, finishing with a 70 in the morning. She rested a few hours before getting back on the course and birdied two of the first three holes to immediately put pressure on Smith, who has never won on the L.P.G.A. Tour.
Smith had the advantage of finishing her second round on Friday before thunderstorms swept through central Alabama, but she couldn’t capitalize. She made seven straight pars before back-to-back bogeys on Nos. 8 and 9 dropped her one shot behind Jutanugarn.
The Shoal Creek course has taken a lot of rain over the past few weeks but remained in relatively good shape. A day of sunshine helped conditions, but more rain is possible on Sunday.
Jutanugarn is trying for her ninth L.P.G.A. Tour win and her second major. She won the Women’s British Open in 2016 and is coming off a victory at the Kingsmill Championship in May.
Even though she was in a good mood after the third round, Jutanugarn admitted she was exhausted.
“I think I’m going to sleep pretty well,” Jutanugarn said.