SOUTHERN PINES, N.C. - World No. 1 Lorena Ochoa found her golf game Saturday at the U.S. Women's Open here at Pine Needles, and kept it turned to full throttle from sunrise to sunset.
In the first day of uninterrupted golf so far at this year's Open, players scrambled to make up for numerous weather delays - and that meant using every bit of available light.
Ochoa, looking for her first major, shook off early bogies on Saturday to battle back to even-par to end her second round. Then she was back on the golf course to play Round No. 3, and she caught fire - carding four birdies and no bogeys (before darkness suspended play) to climb the leaderboard and sit at 4-under-par, one shot back of third round leader Ji-Yai Shin.
"Yes, it is," Ochoa said, when asked if tomorrow was the biggest day of her career. "I feel prepared to win a major. I've been working really hard and giving myself chances. Tomorrow is going to be a special day."
Ochoa has seven holes to complete in her third round Sunday. Shin is at 5-under-par with eight holes to play in her third round.
Michelle Wie withdrew from the tournament halfway through her second round Saturday, citing continuing pain in her wrist, though at 17-over-par at the time it looked nearly impossible that she would make the cut. Some notable LPGA Tour veterans like Karrie Webb missed the cut.
Shin is playing in the U.S. Women's Open for the first time and just her second event on America's mainland. Shin was the Korean Tour's most successful golfer in 2006 - her rookie season. She had twelve top-five finishes and recorded the only sub-70 scoring average in the tour's history.
Tied with Ochoa is Angela Park, who stood as high as 6-under before dropping to 4-under though eleven. Cristie Kerr got to that number with five birdies in 13 holes in her third round before play was suspended.
"It's always exciting doing that. But it's been a very long day of golf," said Kerr. "I'm looking forward to the rest tonight and I'm just trying to do the best I can and honestly not put any pressure on myself, I just got to worry about my own game out there."
Morgan Pressel sits at 3-under, while Julieta Granada is at 2-under par. Pressel has entered Sunday at the U.S. Open in contention but has never won. She says this time is different after getting her first career win at the Kraft Nabisco Championship earlier this year.
"I approach the whole championship with the mentality to win, which is a lot different than I had when I was here before," said Pressel. "And I was just kind of out here just playing golf. And here I'm out here just really focusing on each shot and knowing how important each shot really is. And I played pretty well today.
Players will resume their third rounds at 7:30 am tomorrow. The final groups have 8 holes remaining. Groups will be reset and the fourth round will begin with groups of three going off both the first and tenth holes.
After using Saturday's extended day to climb the leaderboard, Ochoa is looking forward to her 26-hole day tomorrow.
"I like the idea of playing more holes," said Ochoa. "If I'm playing solid, it gives me a better chance the more holes there are to play."
June 30, 2007
Brandon Tucker is the Managing Editor for Golf Channel Courses & Travel. To date, his golf travels have taken him to over two dozen countries and over 500 golf courses worldwide. While he's played some of the most prestigious courses in the world, Tucker's favorite way to play the game is on a great muni in under three hours. Follow Brandon on Twitter at @BrandonTucker.
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