Lexi Thompson might have lost her chance at winning the U.S. Women’s Open on the eighth and ninth holes Saturday at Pinehurst No. 2.
That’s what back-to-back double bogeys will do to you.
Thompson, who started the day three strokes behind second-round leader Michelle Wie, had narrowed the gap to a single stroke when the pair got to the 420-yard par-4 eighth. Thompson missed the green on her second shot, then mis-hit her third, the ball stopping well short of the putting surface.
On the par-3 ninth, Thompson’s tee shot bounced over the green and onto a painted line that marked the out-of-bounds area in front of the grandstand. Thompson was allowed a free drop, but when she did, the ball settled in a divot that Thompson hadn’t noticed.
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“Did you see that?” an incredulous Thompson asked caddie Benji Thompson (no relation).
With only about 75 percent of the ball to work with, Thompson – as she did on the previous hole – couldn’t get it on the green. Three strokes later, another double.
Thompson managed a birdie on the 18th, but finished with a 3-over 73 and is five strokes behind Wie and Amy Yang heading into Sunday’s final round.
Jennifer Johnson was the odd one out and opted to play by herself Saturday. With the field at 35 players after Friday’s cut, Johnson had the first tee time of the day (7 a.m.) and elected to not play with a “marker” – someone, typically a local pro, who would fill out the field to make an even number of players.
“I chose not to have a player partner,” said Johnson, who shot a 72, her best round of the tournament. “I never have played alone in a tournament before. You have to remind yourself to take some breaks because, normally, you take a break when other people are hitting.”
Pornanong Phatlum’s 69 was helped immensely by an eagle on the par-5 fifth, which played to 464 yards Saturday.
Phatlum, a Thailand native, has played in three previous Opens, but has yet to finish better than a tie for 28th in 2012. Now she’s tied for seventh at 3-over for the tournament.
“After the eagle, I had a lot of confidence,” said Phatlum, whose brother Pornpong caddies for her. “I’ll trust myself (Sunday) and not think too much about the score. Just relax and play.”
Stephanie Meadow is from Northern Ireland, played college golf at Alabama and lives in Hilton Head, S.C. She’s also playing in her first professional tournament and is tied for third at the Open, three shots behind the leaders at 2-over.
“You couldn’t dream of a better start,” said Meadow, 22.
Meadow, who shot a 69 Saturday, said her background on the links course of Royal Portrush in her home country helped prepare her for Pinehurst No. 2, which replaced its rough with sand and native vegetation during a recent renovation.
“There’s a little help from my Portrush background,” Meadow said. “It’s just the type of golf course where you’ve got to be accurate. I don’t really know if it really suits anyone. It’s just about execution.”
Na Yeon Choi had an eventful round. Choi, who won the Open in 2012, had four birdies and five bogeys on her way to a 71. She’s tied for third and four shots off the lead at 2 over for the tournament.
That didn’t fluster her. She knows how to take the highs with the lows, as she did in ’12 when her final round included a triple bogey on the 10th hole at Blackworth Run in Kohler, Wis.
“I bounced back on the 11th hole,” Choi said. “I got a great experience from that. I learned many things. It’s the U.S. Open. Nobody knows.”
Lucy’s sunscreen stop
An interested spectator of the final group of Wie and Thompson was Lucy Li, the 11-year-old who was the youngest player ever to qualify for the Open. Li, who missed the cut, signed several autographs as she walked with the group. She was also stopped by her mom, who put some sunscreen on her daughter’s legs.
“On the yardage book, we wrote down these little pink spots on where to hit it on each hole.” – Brittany Lincicome, who had a 1-under 69 Saturday.
Number to know
13: Birdies by co-leader Amy Yang, most of the tournament.