Na Yeon Choi was just a kid when Se Ri Pak won the U.S. Women’s Open at Blackwolf Run in 1998.
Today, Choi is living proof that Pak’s landmark victory 14 years ago really did have the power to inspire girls in South Korea to try to make it in professional golf. And after posting one of the best rounds in Open history, Choi is poised to repeat Pak’s feat in the same event at the same course.
Choi shot a 7-under 65 on Saturday in the third round at Blackwolf Run in Kohler, Wis., taking control of the tournament.
“I couldn’t believe how I got eight birdies today,” Choi said. “But I did. And I’m very happy, and I’m very satisfied and I’m very excited.”
The fifth-ranked South Korean star’s remarkable round put her at 8 under for the tournament, giving her a six-stroke lead over fellow South Korean Amy Yang. Only four players ever have posted a lower round in the Open, and the 65 tied the lowest third-round score in the event’s history.
As Choi surged despite windy conditions, Michelle Wie faded, shooting a 6-over 78 to fall to 2 over. Wie shot a 66 in the second round and came into the day a stroke behind second-round leader Suzann Pettersen.
“It was a lot of fun being in contention,” Wie said. “I’m still not out of it. Don’t count me out just yet.”
Pettersen also shot 78 on Saturday and slid to 1 over, but still hoped to get back into contention.
“You know what, there’s birdies out there,” she said. “I think the wind is going to be a little bit less tomorrow from what I’ve seen. So if you get off to a hot start, hopefully put a number down early in the clubhouse. Who knows?”
Yang had a 69. Choi and Yang were the only players to break 70 in the round.
“I’m just going to keep being patient tomorrow, try to do my best,” Yang said.
Lexi Thompson (72), Mika Miyazato (73) and Sandra Gal (74) were tied for third at 1 under.
TIE ATOP FIRST TEE
Tom Kite shot a 3-under 69 at Pebble Beach for a share of the lead with Brad Bryant after the second round of the First Tee Open.
Kite, 62, won the 1983 Bing Crosby National Pro-Am and 1992 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach, the site of the today’s final round in the Champions Tour event. He’s in position to become the third oldest tour winner behind Mike Fetchick and Gary Player.
“I’m pleased to be playing well,” Kite said. “It’s nice to do something and feel like I have a chance. Fifty year olds keep winning. It’s more difficult, but I’m on a golf course I know well and like a lot.”
Bryant, winless since the 2007 U.S. Senior Open, had a 67 at Del Monte to match Kite at 8 under.
Bobby Clampett (67), Peter Senior (70) and Mark McNulty (71) were tied for third at 5 under.
First-round co-leader John Cook withdrew after nine holes Saturday because of a lingering neck injury.
PAIR LEAD FRENCH
David Howell of England shot a 4-under 67 to share the lead with Anders Hansen of Denmark at 6-under after the third round of the European Tour’s French Open in Saint-Quentin-en-Yvelines, France.
Hansen finished with a 69. South African George Coetzee is one shot back after a 70. Overnight leader Marcel Siem of Germany had a 73 to fall two behind the leaders.
Howell, who shot 34 in his opening nine, added birdies on the 14th and 16th on his way back to the clubhouse just before a thunderstorm halted play.
TRACKING LOCAL GOLFERS on tHE pga tour
This week: The Greenbrier Classic, through today, The Old White TPC, White Sulphur Springs, W.Va.
In the field: Tacoma’s Troy Kelly.
Third-round score: 8-under-par 62.
Position: Kelly (12-under 198) is alone in second, two strokes behind leader Webb Simpson (196), who shot 65 on Saturday.
Recap: What a remarkable turnaround for the Central Kitsap High graduate, who darted up the leaderboard after a career-low PGA Tour round, which was bogey-free and included eight birdies. When Kelly rolled in a 5-foot putt for one of those birdies on the 12th hole, he led a PGA Tour event by himself for the first time in his career – and kept it for about three hours before Simpson, the reigning U.S. Open champion, rallied late to pass him. Naturally, Kelly will be the underdog heading into the final round today. Inspiration? Look no further than the guy who won this tournament a year ago – Scott Stallings – whose credentials before that were far less impressive than what Kelly has accomplished.
Tee time Today: 10:50 a.m. PDT off the first email@example.com