Third Round: 5 Things You Need to Know July 8, 2016 | San Martin, Calif. By Tom Mackin

Catriona Matthew, at 46, has shown this week at CordeValle she can still can compete with the young stars in the women's game. (USGA/Steven Gibbons)

U.S. Women's Open Home

Syung Hun Park begins the third round of the 71st U.S. Women’s Open at CordeValle on Saturday with a two-stroke lead, but the winner of the 2015 Korean Women’s Open will be chased by a deep field that features five past champions, including Cristie Kerr, Karrie Webb, So Yeon Ryu, Paula Creamer and Eun Hee Ji, and eight of the top 10 players in the world. Here are some storylines to keep an eye on as the third round unfolds.

Age Gap - Three decades separate the youngest and oldest remaining competitors: 16-year-old amateur Hye Jin Choi (1 under 143), of the Republic of Korea and Catriona Matthew (1 over 145), 46, of Scotland. The latter played in her first U.S. Women’s Open 20 years ago and owns eight top-20 finishes, highlighted by a tie for fourth in 2001. No winner since Kerr in 2007 has been older than 24. Choi, winner of the 2015 World Junior Girls Championship, is playing in her first U.S. Women’s Open.

Canadian Surprise – World No. 2 Brooke Henderson (147) was expected to be among the leaders this week, but it’s countrywomen Maude Leblanc (141) who has performed better through 36 holes. The 27-year-old from Quebec earned medalist honors in a sectional qualifier at Hermitage Country Club in Manakin-Sabot, Va. She finished tied for 50th in her Women’s Open debut three years ago when she led the field in driving distance (268.3 yards). Leblanc, a three-time All Big-10 selection at Purdue University, ranks 10th in putting for the championship entering the third round. 

Sister Act – For the first time in U.S. Women’s Open history, two pairs of sisters will be playing on the weekend. Don’t blame either the Kordas (Jessica and Nelly) or the Jutanugarns (Ariya and Moriya) for scoreboard watching today as they keep track of their respective sibling’s performance. Of the four, Ariya Jutanugarn (145) has the highest world ranking at No. 7, but it’s Jessica Korda (140) who has the best career finish in a U.S.Women’s Open, a tie for seventh in 2013. That was the same year sister Nelly made the cut as an amateur in her first Women’s Open.

On the Rise – World No. 1 Lydia Ko, of New Zealand, bounced back from a disappointing 73 with an impressive 66 on Frida to start the third round in a tie for fourth at 5-under 139. The 19-year-old’s putting has been superb (ranked fifth overall) and she has hit 21 of 28 fairways. Ko was the low amateur in the 2012 U.S. Women’s Open, a month before she claimed the 2012 U.S. Women’s Amateur. She is seeking her third major championship since last fall’s triumph in the Evian Championship.

The Leaders – Koreans Sung Hyun Park, Amy Yang and Mirim Lee should have plenty to talk about as they play in the final group. Park (136), competing in her first U.S. Women’s Open, shot 66 in the second round to take a two-stroke lead over Yang, who has been the runner-up twice (2012 and 2015), and Lee. Lee, playing in her second U.S. Women’s Open, opened the championship with an 8-under-par 64, which included a Women’s Open-record 10 birdies.

Arizona resident Tom Mackin is a frequent contributor to USGA websites. Email him at temackinjr@gmail.com

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