06 Jun 2021 | Professional golf |

Aussies fade as Thompson rules Open

by PGA of Australia

Lexi Thompson image
Lexi Thompson celebrates another birdie with playing partner Mel Reid today. Photo: Getty

By Tony Webeck Aussie pair Minjee Lee and Hannah Green won’t feature but a final round showdown between American Lexi Thompson and Filipino Yuka Saso looms at the US Women’s Open at The Olympic Club in San Francisco.

Only six players were able to break par as the Lake Course’s thick rough and slick greens once again put the planet’s best women players’ games to the test, Thompson surging to the 54-hole lead with a brilliant 5-under par round of 66.

At 7-under par she will start the final day one stroke clear of the sweet-swinging Saso who fought back late with a birdie at the par-5 17th only to drop a shot at the last to post a third round of even par 71 to sit one back at 6-under.

Runner-up in 2019, Thompson will start her Sunday pursuit of history four shots clear of amateur sensation Megha Ganne and 2019 US Women’s Open champion Jeongeun Lee6 with 2012 Women’s PGA champion Shanshan Feng a shot further back in outright fifth position.

Bogeys at the second and third holes were not how Minjee Lee hoped to begin her third round and it remained a struggle to the very end, a double-bogey at the par-5 17th contributing to a 6-over 77 to sit 10-over and tied for 55th with one round to play.

Fellow West Australian Hannah Green also fell back in the pack on Saturday. The 24-year-old fought hard to make the turn at 1-over 36 but a double-bogey at the par-4 10th and bogeys at 12, 13, 15 and 18 saw Green sign for a 7-over 78 to be 13-over through three rounds.

Fourteen years since she stunned the golf world by qualifying to play in the 2007 US Women’s Open at just 12 years of age, Thompson is attributing her position as 54-hole leader to a change of mindset that is helping her to deal with whatever tough breaks such a championship invariably throws at every player in the field.

“Any shot that got a bad bounce that went in the rough or the certain lies that you just have to pitch out, normally I would be, like, Oh my gosh, this is awful, this is a terrible lie, I’ve got to wedge it out now,” said Thompson after a bogey-free round that was her best in 14 appearances in the championship.

“It’s gotten to where it’s like, OK, I can pitch it out, wedge it up, give myself a par opportunity. And if I make bogey, I’ll move on to the next hole and give myself a birdie opportunity on the next.

“I just realised that I needed to change my mindset. It was only hurting me. Obviously I needed to work on some technical things in my game and everything, but the mental side was really getting to me.

“I was just taking it way too seriously and thinking that Lexi depended on my score. It’s really hard for me to not think that, but I just got into a state, I’m going to hit bad shots, and it is what it is. I can manage to get up-and-down or do what I can.”

A two-time winner on the Japan Ladies Golf Tour and the 36-hole leader at the Lotte Championship in April, Saso says that despite her relative inexperience she will endeavour to remain patient in her pursuit of what would be a historic victory for the Philippines.

“I'm really thankful and happy that there's so many people cheering for me, but that doesn't really go into my head. I'm just so focused on what I have to do now,” said the 19-year-old who is playing in her first tournament with galleries as a professional.

“I've learned so much last year and this year. I played in so many good tournaments and I've been having a great chance playing with the great players, seeing them play, being so patient, trusting on what they do.

“I've learned from that so I'm just going to stay patient and trust the process.”

Former junior golf combatants and practice round partners earlier this week, Ganne will join Saso and Thompson in the final group threesome and sees no reason why she can’t put herself in position to cause a major boilover.

“You can't really come into a tournament expecting to play well if you don't deep down know that you’ve got a shot to win it,” said Ganne, a 17-year-old high school junior from New Jersey.

“I guarantee you all 156 people in this field have thought about winning this championship and they just don't say it because they want to seem humble.

“But, yeah, it's been down there and hopefully I have a chance tomorrow.” Leaderboard

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