Anna Nordqvist Co-Leader after Round 3’s Leaderboard Reshuffle
On a day traditionally known as “moving day”, where contenders try to play their way to the top of the leaderboard, Saturday’s 3rd Round at the AIG Women’s Open did not disappoint. While no player was able to separate themselves from the field, there was plenty of movement – some players couldn’t make up ground while others had hot a start only to fall back down again by day’s end. Perhaps no player better encapsulated the rise and fall in one round like rookie player Yealimi Noh of the United States.
Noh became the surprise co-leader, getting to -9 under after her hot start with four consecutive birdies on Holes 4 thru 7, to go out in 32, good enough for -4 under as she started her second nine. Steady series of pars eventually yielded to another birdie on the par-5, 14th hole that played at 479 yards today. The birdie took her to -10 under and the sole lead of the tournament with 4-holes remaining.
Unfortunately for Noh, she seemed to tire by this point, looking exhausted thru the final stretch. The effect was that Noh started to lose her sharpness as tee shots started to stray slightly, landing in the wispy, wet rough. On other occasions, she found both fairway and greenside bunkers, each threatening her chances of saving par. Noh, did manage to minimize the damage on the par-3, 16th and the par-4, 17th to bogeys.
The tough, closing 18th hole proved another matter as she found the wispy rough on the left side of the fairway, leaving her 175 yards to the green. After analyzing her lie and considering her options with her caddie, Noh opted for a 5-iron instead of 6-iron to make sure that she had enough club to carry the Barry Burn that protects the 18th green.
With the ball slightly below her feet, it seemed like the right decision. Maintaining a steady posture, she pulled the club back with a good shoulder turn before transitioning into the downswing. Approaching the moment of impact, some of the longer fescue came between her club and the ball, compromising her contact ever so slightly. While she initially liked the swing and the trajectory of the ball, it came up short, landing in the Burn. She would drop, chip on and two-putt for a double bogey 6. She finished her round at -6 under, having given away 4-strokes on 3-holes.
“I don't know I hit my drive pretty good but ended up in the rough, like a few feet from the fairway. But the lie was like, okay, like the ball was sitting up but I guess there was like a little grass behind it. And I had like 175 to the hole, 150 to carry. I was thinking of six or five and I end up hitting five and I actually thought I had good contact on it flew pretty good and was on a good line but like, way short, hitting it to like 140 and then the water. Fourth shot on, two putt for double.”
While some may have refused to speak to the media after that kind of finish, Yealimi Noh demonstrated character and poise as she stepped up to take questions. There was some raw emotion, but it quickly gave way to a sense of optimism that she was going into the final round only 3-shots back of the co-leaders, Nordqvist and Nanna Koerstz Madsen.
At times on Saturday, we witnessed players making moves up and down the leaderboard, resembling a bit of an old fashioned shootout. At the end of the day, the sharpest shooter of them all was Sweden’s Anna Nordqvist. The two-time major champion put together the round of the day, going -7 under, posting a score of 65 as she vaulted 22 places up to the top of the leaderboard alongside fellow Scandinavian player, Nanna Koerstz Madsen of Denmark.
Nordqvist’s play was impressive, playing through the “dreich” or drizzle of the morning, while posting a blemish free round. She managed to card 7-birdies, with no bogeys or dropped strokes – it was impressive golf. Like Yealimi Noh, Nordqvist’s opening nine holes was punctuated with 4-birdies as she too made the out-turn in 32 strokes. Steady golf on the second nine resulted in a string of pars from holes 10 thru 13, before she birdied 3 of the last 5 holes for a low round of 65.
Solid ball-striking – avoiding bunkers and trouble areas, finding fairways and greens, along with timely putting were the keys to Nordqvist going low today. Despite the changing weather conditions, she stayed focused on her playing her shot and it paid off handsomely. She finished the day as the top ball-striker in hitting “Greens in Regulation” with an astounding 17 out of a possible 18 greens – 94% on the day.
“I feel like I've been playing really solid this week and last week at the Scottish; I hit the ball really well. So, I think it's been coming together for a while. Hit a lot of fairways, a lot of greens today. Gave me a lot of good chances and that's going to be the difference. Made a few good putts out there, especially on 8, a longer one and I had to stay patient around the turn. Very happy with my round and feel like I've been staying patient this week and just letting it come to me instead of trying to force it.”
Anna Nordqvist will play in the last pairing tomorrow at 14:45 (2:45 p.m.) alongside fellow Scandinavian co-leader Nanna Koerstz Madsen. Yealimi Noh, despite the tough finish today is still in the hunt for victory. She is paired with Moriya Jutanugarn with a 13:55 (1:55 p.m.) tee time.