Despite bogeying two of the first four holes, Catriona Matthew held her nerve and a few decent putts to establish a three-shot lead going into Sunday's final round of the Ricoh Women's British Open at Royal Lytham and St. Annes.
"That birdie on the fifth certainly settled me down after what could be described as a rather indifferent start," recalled the Scot.
After turning level, she played what she claimed was her best golf of the week to come home in 35, 2 under par. Had she not missed a short birdie putt on 17 and another makeable one at the last, she would have had a more sizeable cushion than the already healthy three shots she takes into the final round.
Someone who did hole her birdie putt at the 18th was the irrepressible Christina Kim. It pulled her out of a three-way tie for second and put her into red figues.
It was 4 a.m. back in Florida when her father rang before she teed off to tell her to simply take it one shot at a time, which was advice she heeded.
"With links golf, it's so important to stay patient," Kim remarked.
Told that Peter Alliss had compared her to Lee Trevino, the ever cheerful American said she took it as a compliment because Trevino was "such a cool guy."
What did Kim think of her final-round playing partner, Catriona Matthew?
"She's a diamond. I adore her." She also thought that the Scot, being used to links golf, had something of an advantage.
So how does Matthew fancy being paired with the irrepressible Kim? "I've played with her a few times and thoroughly enjoyed it," Matthew said. "She's good fun."
Both might be looking over their proverbial shoulders at the ominously looming figure of Jiya Shin. Clearly in no mood to relinquish her title without a struggle, the Korean is on level par. After opening up on Thursday with a disappointing 77, the defending champion is clearly getting to grips with the idiosyncrasies of links golf and has steadily improved each day. Her 68 was largely built on the back of a blistering, 3-under par 32 on the front. Her only dropped shot came at the notoriously tough 17th where she once again opted to drive down the 16th fairway. As in the opening round when she double bogeyed it, the strategy appeared to backfire as she dropped another shot. Can she win?
"I'm following the leaders right now. I'm not far away," Shin said. "This course is very tough and nobody knows what the winning score will be, so I have a chance."
Playing partner Mika Miyazato of Japan possibly drew inspiration from watching her as the two very nearly matched strides on their way to becoming the only pair to both beat par. Miyazato signed for a 69 and is now 1 over for the championship.
Her unrelated namesakeshe, Ai Miyazato, also enjoyed herself in the breezy but warm conditions and picked up five birdies in her round of 70. One of only two players on level par, Ai Miyazato will be hoping to improve on last year's performance when she tied for fifth.
Further bolstering the Japanese challenge is Shinobu Moromizato, who progressed up the leaderboard thanks to a 1-under par 71 and is now just 2 over.
Among those disappointed with their performance was Cristy Kerr whose 75 left her well back on 6 over. Even more disappointed was joint overnight leader, Guila Sergas. Back-to-back 6s at seven and eight and again at 15 and 16 put paid to the Italian's chances and she had to settle for a lackluster 78. Two other European hopefuls who came to grief were Marianne Skarpnord and Sophie Gustafson. After her second-round 69 put her in serious contention, Skarpnord tangled with a deep bunker on the 15th, ran up an ugly 9 and is now seven shots back. Gustafson, who won this championship back in 2000 at Royal Birkdale, had a nightmare 82 and is out of contention.
The weather forecast for Sunday is good. The wind will blow again and there's sure to be an exciting climax.
August 2, 2009
Although in his 60s, with a handicap of 15 and lifetime earnings comfortably below $100, Clive Agran nevertheless still believes he can win a major. Arguably England's most gifted golf writer, when not dreaming of glory he's scouring the globe simultaneously searching for lost balls and great golf courses. Follow Clive on Twitter at @cliveagran.
Anyone looking back at the final scores of the 2009 Ricoh Women's British Open at Royal Lytham and St. Anne's will almost certainly come to the wrong conclusion that this was a comfortable three-shot win for Catriona Matthew. It was anything but as the seemingly imperturbable Scot struggled to hit a fairway throughout the final round and was only rescued by some superb recovery shots and a bunch of astonishing long putts.
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