American Lizette Salas will take a two-shot lead in the final round of the ISPS Handa Women’s Australian Open at Royal Adelaide, but 20-year-old Australian Su Oh has roared into contention with today’s best round in tough, breezy conditions.
Salas played a superb back nine to post a 71 and reach 10-under, grabbing the lead when she made consecutive birdies at the 14th and 15th, and extending the margin to two when she two-putted for another birdie on the par-5 17th hole.
She will play in the last group tomorrow with Oh, the Melburnian who made such a splash on the LPGA Tour last year, finishing third in the Rookie of the Year standings.
Thailand’s Pornanong Phatlum and second-round leader Sarah Jane Smith also are at eight-under, two from the lead, but a bunch of others remain in contention, including defending champion Haru Nomura of Japan and South Korea’s world No.6 Ha Na Jang, both just four back.
Oh exploded into contention with a five-under 68 and is in a great position to win her national championship for the first time alongside Salas in the final pairing. The Australian, who represented her country at the Olympic Games last year and won a world amateur championship alongside the more heralded Minjee Lee, had a share of the lead before Salas’ late surge.
“There are still 18 holes to go, I can’t quite think yet, but it’s my national title, so I really want to fight for it,” said the Golf Australia rookie squad member, who previously won the Australian Ladies Masters in 2015 in just her second event as a pro.
“It’s going to be tough, but it would mean a lot. You can’t really put a word to that. It also would be my first win on the LPGA. I’m happy with how I played today and just (want to) tighten up a few more things for tomorrow and see what happens.”
Oh was already having a great round in the wind by the time she reached the 18th; that she hit a piercing iron to five metres and rolling the putt in only emphasised it. The Victorian, who emigrated to Melbourne from South Korea with her parents at age seven, picked up golf from her father Seok-Gu, and came through the elite programs of Golf Victoria and Golf Australia, dominating at amateur level where she and Lee were two thirds of a world championship team in 2014.
Oh said this week that her target for 2017 was to win an LPGA Tour event; her chance has come quite quickly.
As for Salas, she is delighted to have her father Ramon present, for he was not when she won her previous tournament two years ago. A Californian, she has her old caddie Greg Puga on the bag and they have taken a vow to “get uncomfortable” on the course, and through four holes today she had made two bogeys and lived true to those words. Beyond that, she changed her golf ball and started anew, playing what she called “boring golf”, hitting fairways and greens.
A win would be quite something for her, too. “It would be such an honour and it would be my first win overseas, my first win with my dad here. He wasn’t there (in 2014), he was watching on television. To bounce back from the year I had last year, it would mean a lot,” she said.
Overnight leader Smith (74) remained in contention despite starting with a bogey and battling through the day, book-ending her troubles with a bogey from the front-left of the 18th green, but in between holding firm.
Of the other Australians in contention, Lee, Rebecca Artis and 20-year-old Hannah Green are each on three under.