Sunday: Five Things to Watch for July 16, 2017 | BEDMINSTER, N.J. By Michael Trostel, USGA

Hye-Jin Choi is trying to capture the U.S. Women's Open title on Sunday, something an amateur hasn't done in 50 years. (USGA/Chris Keane)

U.S. Women's Open Home

For the third night in a row, Shanshan Feng will sleep on the lead in the 72nd U.S. Women’s Open. Her closest pursuers are championship mainstay Amy Yang and resilient amateur Hye-Jin Choi, both of whom dropped shots early on Saturday, but rebounded with bogey-free back nines to briefly tie Feng for the lead before she edged back ahead with a closing birdie.

Stacy Lewis made a run at Feng in the third round, making five birdies in her first 10 holes to climb into second place, but two disastrous holes ended her chances of getting her first victory in three years.

Twenty-one Americans made the cut, but the first page of the leader board is filled with international flags, including nine from the Republic of Korea in the top 10. Cristie Kerr is the lone American among the top 13 pursuing Feng, as she looks to rally from five strokes back to win her second U.S. Women’s Open trophy a decade after her first.

The weather forecast for Sunday is hot, dry and calm – perfect conditions to let the players focus on execution in golf’s ultimate test. Here’s what to watch for in the final round, as competitors set out to earn the title of U.S. Women’s Open champion:

Wire-to-Wire Winner: Feng (8-under 208) has played virtually mistake-free golf through 54 holes, making just one bogey. She is seeking to become the first start-to-finish winner, with no ties, since Hollis Stacy in 1977. In addition to her nearly flawless play, Feng has endeared herself to the fans at the U.S. Women’s Open with her carefree personality and refreshing self-awareness. The self-proclaimed lover of steak and buffalo wings promised to wear her signature cow-patterned shorts in the final round. We’ll see if she gets a “spot” in the winner’s circle.

Can Yang Close?: Yang is one of the most consistent players in the game. She has 16 top-10 finishes in major championships, including at least one in each of the last nine years. But the 27-year-old from the Republic of Korea is still looking for her first major victory. She is the highest-ranked player in the world (No. 9) without a major, but continues to knock on the door in the U.S. Women’s Open. Yang has finished in the top 4 in this championship in five of the last six years. Will she break through to claim her first major championship title on Sunday?

Teen Triumph: After Hye-Jin Choi bogeyed the first hole on Saturday, it appeared she might fade off the leader board as many amateurs have done in the past after a spirited charge through 36 holes. But that was her only dropped shot of the day. Choi finished with three birdies and 14 pars, making up a shot on Feng with her third-round 70. The 17-year-old will play in the final group with Feng on Sunday with a chance to become the youngest champion in U.S. Women’s Open history and only the second amateur to win, joining Catherine Lacoste 50 years ago. 

A Grand Finale: A lot can happen over the final four holes at Trump National. The players will face a little bit of everything: a par 3, a par 4, two par 5s and plenty of water. The 162-yard 16th is guarded by a pond in front and a bunker over the green. The 394-yard 17th, which has played as the third-most difficult hole this week, will also get the players’ attention with water right of the green. The par 5s (Nos. 15 and 18) have been two of the easiest holes through three rounds, yielding more birdies than any other holes on the course. Yet, as we saw on Saturday with Lewis, if players don’t execute, bogeys, double bogeys or even, gulp, 10s are possible on the home hole. Expect an exciting finish on Sunday.

Bye-Bye Ai: Ai Miyazato, 32, of Japan, recently announced that she was retiring from competitive golf at the end of the 2017 season. The nine-time winner on the LPGA Tour, known for wearing knee-high socks on the golf course, birdied the 18th hole on Friday to make the cut. Sunday will be Miyazato’s 40th and final round in the U.S. Women’s Open. “She's a great competitor and such a nice person,” said Michelle Wie. “What she's done for the game of golf in Japan, it's inspiring. I definitely teared up when she told us she was retiring. I was going to convince her to play some more, but I think she's pretty set on it.”

Michael Trostel is the senior content producer for the USGA. Email him at mtrostel@usga.org

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