The world number one Ko Jin-young opens with a birdie … and so here’s our first opportunity to update the upper reaches of the leaderboard.
-7: JY Ko (1), Law
-6: Choi (1), Nordqvist (1), L Ko, Lin, Lindblad -a-
-5: M Jutanugarn (3), Khang (3), Ji, Maguire (1)
-4: Vu (5)
Lilia Vu nearly gave up golf a couple of years ago. Good thing she didn’t. She’s in good position for a high finish today after rounds of 71, 69 and 71, followed by a fast start today. Birdies at 1 and 2, and the 24-year-old Californian has risen to -4, just one place outside the current top ten. She would have made it there too, but having launched a 4-iron to 12 feet at the par-three 5th, her birdie putt shaves the lip.
A disappointing start to the round for Leona Maguire. The 27-year-old from Ireland knows exactly how to launch a charge up the leaderboard on major Sunday, having shot a record-equalling 61 – 61! – on the final day of last year’s Evian. If she was to retain any sort of hope today, though, she required a flier from the blocks. Letting a six-foot birdie putt on 1 slide by isn’t that; the look on her face suggests she already knows a long shot has just become a dot on the horizon. She remains -5, eight behind the leader Minjee Lee.
Kim Sei-young has the PGA Championship on her resumé, plus top-five finishes at the Dinah Shore, Evian and British Open. The best she’s managed in eight previous US Open appearances is a tie for eighth in 2017; other than that, it’s never really happened for her at the oldest major in women’s golf. She’s currently fixin’ to do something fairly memorable here today, though. She’s currently through five holes without a par: four birdies, plus a double bogey at 2. She’s -3 overall, yesterday’s 75 having ruled her out of serious contention.
Chun In-gee won the first of her two major titles at the US Open at Lancaster Country Club in 2015. A magnificent final round of 66 sealed the deal that day. She won’t be adding to her major tally today – the 2016 Evian was her other big victory – but the 27-year-old Korean does look set to enjoy another low-scoring Sunday. Birdies at 1, 2 and now 6, and she’s moved into the current top 20 at -1.
Park Sung-hyun won this trophy in 2017 Trump National, holding off the sensational challenge of 17-year-old amateur Choi Hye-jin (more of whom later, almost certainly). The 28-year-old South Korean is going along very nicely this afternoon, having just added to early birdies at 1 and 3 with another at 10. At three under for her round, she’s the lowest scorer out on the course right now. She’s -1 overall, and having started her week with a pair of 69s, will be deeply regretting yesterday’s miserable 77.
The new Dinah Shore – OK, Chevron – champion Jennifer Kupcho never got going at this US Open. The last player to make the famous leap into Poppie’s Pond, ahead of the Chevron’s move from California to Texas, shot 71 today. Not a single round under par this week, which is uncharacteristic behaviour. She ends her US Open at +7. Next year at Pebble Beach, maybe.
The 2019 champion Jeongeun Lee6 is the very early clubhouse leader. The 26-year-old South Korean has rebounded from yesterday’s disappointing 77 with a fine 69, sealed with birdies at 15 and 18. She ends her week at +5, and she’ll always have Charleston.
The Pine Needles Lodge and Golf Club has always produced a US Women’s Open champion out of the top drawer. The tournament has been held here in Southern Pines, North Carolina three times before, in 1996, 2001 and 2007; in reverse order, the winners those years were two-time major champion Cristie Kerr, seven-time major champion Karrie Webb, and ten-time major champion Annika Sörenstam. Pine Needles: sorting the wheat from the chaff for decades.
Going into the final round of the 2022 edition, it looks as though Pine Needles will crown another multiple-major-winning US Open champion later today. Minjee Lee, last year’s winner at the Evian, is three shots clear of Mina Harigae, six clear of third-placed Bronte Law, and seven ahead of a star-packed peleton. The 26-year-old from Perth, Australia is 18 solid holes away from her first US Open and her second major title. After rounds of 67, 66 and 67, you wouldn’t bet the farm against her.
But strange things can happen on any given major Sunday. Lexi Thompson, at one point five clear of the field at Olympia last year before collapsing on the back nine in the Arnold Palmer style, can attest to that. So nothing’s certain … and there’s one hell of a field waiting to take advantage of any big slip-up from the leader Lee. Harigae shot a best-of-week 64 on Thursday. Bronte Law, the street-fighting hero of Europe’s 2019 Solheim Cup win at Gleneagles, is finally making her mark at the majors. Ko Jin-young, Nelly Korda and Lydia Ko are the world’s number one, two and three players respectively. (Lee is four.) Anna Nordqvist knows how to close out a major, her amateur compatriot Ingrid Lindblad is having the week of her life, Megan Khang surely has to land a big title soon, Choi Hye-jin nearly won this prize in 2017 as a 17-year-old amateur, and Leona Maguire has already proven her ability to shoot 61 – 61! – on the final day at a major. (Last year’s Evian, for the record.) So yes, anything can happen.
Here’s how the top of the leaderboard looks after 54 holes. These leaders start making their way out on the course at approximately 1.30pm local, 6.30pm BST. We’ll get going then. It’s on!
-13: Minjee Lee
-10: Mina Harigae
-7: Bronte Law
-6: Lydia Ko, Lin Xiyu, Ingrid Lindblad (a), Ko Jin-young, Anna Nordqvist, Choi Hye-jin
-5: Leona Maguire, Ji Eun-hee, Megan Khang, Moriya Jutanugarn
-4: Nelly Korda