BETHESDA — A strong, brilliant sun shone down on Congressional Country Club all Saturday afternoon, beating down on both the Blue Course and the scoreboard. And because of that, a Women’s PGA Championship that looked like a runaway after round one is now set up for a spectacular Sunday finish.
South Korean In Gee Chun still sits atop the leaderboard at 8-under but came back to the field with a 3-over that included four bogeys and a double, while countrywoman Hye-Jin Choi and American Lexi Thompson charged up with 2-under rounds, now within three strokes of Chun at 5-under after 54 holes.
“Absolutely it was a little tough out there,” Chun said of her third-round 75. “I’m so proud of myself because I hung in there after I had double bogey on 16.”
On that 555-yard par-5, Chun’s third shot from the fescue right of the fairway sailed over to the left side rough and under the tree line. She took an unplayable from there, and replayed her original third shot but flew it over the 16th green.
“I’m just going back to the original spot there…from behind the green it was really tough,” Chun said.
She steadied herself after the wayward hole with pars on her last two, ending a round that took nearly six hours with playing partners Lydia Ko and Jennifer Kupcho.
“Before 16, our group was slow, but at the same time the [group in] front of us, they got a warning on the time. So it makes it a little bit of difference to catch up then,” Chun said.
The traditional Washington-area summer heat that reached a high of 90 didn’t lend the day to expedited golf either.
“The weather was really hot, and the sun is really strong out here. Before I start play, I already got all sweaty on my body,” Chun said. “Even from my arms, the water kept falling down. It was hard.”
It also helped to keep scoring at a premium. Only two players in the third round posted numbers in the 60s — world No. 5 Atthaya Thitikul of Thailand (68) and South Korean Jenny Shin (69).
“I give myself a lot of chances to make a birdie, but the pins are still tough for me,” Thitikul said. “Then the course is long. So I just give myself a lot of chances to make a birdie and rolling the putts really well and be patient out there.”
“They’re just longer. They’re all longer,” Thompson said of the Blue Course’s four par-5 holes. “They moved one up today, and I think they moved it up about 40 yards. There’s a creek on the right [at No.6], and it was 255, 260 to cover it. I’m, like, I don’t really have that.
Patience was a virtue for the Floridian. She bogeyed two of her first four holes, but rebounded on the back nine with three out of four birdies, including an uphill 30-footer on 15, to put herself in the final group on Sunday.
“I love that the hard work has been able to pay off for me,” Thompson said. “I’ve been putting in the time, so to see it pay off and pay dividends means the world to me, so I’m looking forward to tomorrow.”
Thompson will play with Choi, as they did today, with Chun joining their group that tees off on No. 1 at 10:45 a.m. She’s looking to add to her lone major title, the ANA Inspiration title from 2014.
“It’s amazing,” Thompson beamed. “You always want to be in the final group in any tournament that you’re putting yourself in contention and a chance to win.”
For Chun, she hopes to take the troubles and struggles of her third round to hold on to the lead one more time and be able to hold a third major trophy along with a $1.35 million check Sunday afternoon.
“I just want to keep being a positive way,” she said “No matter where I am, just I’m ready to make another good day or another good round if I can. It’s still another process, I believe, so just keep doing it.”
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