The stage is set for an exciting Sunday at the Country Club of Charleston as 11 players are within four strokes of the lead going into the final round of the 74th U.S. Women’s Open. On a course that has proven to be as clever as its pre-championship billing, the possibilities are endless.
All week, the club has shared center stage with the best players in the women’s game. Now it’s time for the aria. To listen to the players talk, the key to this course is not to go flag hunting, but just hit greens and hope the occasional birdie putt finds the hole.
Here are three things to know ahead of the final round.
While Duke has had an amazing history both with NCAA team titles and individual champions, only two of its alums have won on the LPGA. One is Brittany Lang, who captured the 2016 U.S. Women’s Open, and the other is Celine Boutier, who is in Sunday’s final group along with Yu Liu, who also went to Duke.
Boutier won this year’s ISPS Handa Vic Open and while Liu has yet to hoist an LPGA trophy, she was T-2 this year at the Founders Cup and T-8 at the LPGA event near San Francisco. They start the final round at 7-under-par 206, one stroke ahead of a trio of challengers.
Clawing to the Top
One of those one stroke behind Liu and Boutier is Lexi Thompson, who listened to her brother Curtis earlier this week and switched to a claw putting grip. “I’m feeling comfortable with it,” she said after a 68 in Saturday’s third round, her best score of the week.
Thompson, who is one of the best ball strikers on tour, has lived up to that billing this week. Her putting with the new grip has been solid but not spectacular, using 32 putts each of the three rounds. But that’s good enough when you hit 47 of 54 greens – 87 percent – the best in the field.
“I think just really overall on this golf course, you just have to stay patient,” Thompson said. “There's going to be bogeys made out there. You just have to stay in it and know that you can birdie some holes after that.”
Lying in Wait
All eyes will be on the two leaders Sunday as well as on Thompson, but there are a bunch of others to keep an eye on. Being in contention in the final round of the U.S. Women’s Open is a new stage for Jaye Marie Green and Mamiko Higa, who are tied with Lexi one stroke behind Liu and Boutier, but there are others lurking who have experience winning.
Jeongeun Lee6, the reigning Rolex Rookie of the Year, is two strokes off the lead. Jessica Korda doesn’t have a major but she does have five LPGA victories and is only three back. Minjee Lee is also looking for her first major but she also has five victories and is four strokes off the lead along with 2011 U.S. Women’s Open champion So Yeon Ryu. Buckle up, it looks like Sunday will be a thrill a minute at the Country Club of Charleston.
Ron Sirak is a Massachusetts-based freelance writer who frequently contributes to USGA digital channels.