Minnesota Golf Association

Olson 1 Back of Shibuno after 3 Rounds at U.S. Women's Open

December 12, 2020

HOUSTON, Texas -- The Houston Astrodome, which officially opened in 1965, was the first multi-purpose sports stadium in the world. Since then, domes have become fairly common in a variety of what have traditionally been considered outdoor sports, including baseball, football, soccer and tennis. 

But not golf. 

They could have used a dome this week not too far down the road from the Astrodome, at the Champions Club, where the 75th U.S. Women's Open is being played. On Friday, the tee times were moved up to get the second round in ahead of most of the rain that was predicted for that day. It worked. There was occasional light rain for the competitors to deal with, but play was completed before the heavy rain began. 

Nevertheless, that heavy rain caused problems during Saturday's third round because the Cypress Creek course at Champions was still wet. The course is 6,635 yards long, but it played a lot longer than that Saturday because tee shots landed -- and stuck. There was very little roll. Even worse, mud was sticking to the balls, and that made it hard to predict what the next shot was going to do.

Afterward, Amy Olson was asked about  a shot she hit with mud on the ball.

"Which one?" she replied. "There were about 18 of them. I mean, at one point I laughed, and it was like, is it going to be in a divot or a mud ball, because it was one or the other pretty much all day."

Despite the difficulties, the 28-year-old former North Dakota State All-American managed to post a 71, even par, which gave her a 54-hole total of 210. She's one shot behind the leader, Hinako Shibuno, who shot 74. This is only the second major championship that Shibuno has played in -- but she won the first one, the 2019 British Women's Open. Now the 22-year-old from Japan -- she is a regular on the Japanese tour -- has a chance to go 2 for 2. 

It won't be easy. When she started the the third round, she had a three-stroke lead, and there were only four players within four of her. Now the lead is one, and there are seven challengers within four, plus another six right behind them, five behind at 214.

Shibuno bogeyed the first hole Saturday, but she birdied the par-5 fifth (482 yards). That increased her lead to four shots, and she was six ahead of Olson. But Shibuno bogeyed the seventh, and Olson birdied the 475-yard, par-5 ninth, hitting her second shot just short of the green and two-putting from the fringe. So they both turned in 37, and the margin between them was back to four, where it had been on the first tee.

Olson bogeyed the 10, but then proceeded to gain four strokes on Shibuno over the last six holes, starting with a birdie at the par-5 13th, where she nearly holed a 50-yard pitch shot. Shibuno bogeyed the 14th hole, and Olson cut the deficit to two when she nearly holed out from the fairway once again. This time it was an 8-iron second shot at the 386-yard, par-4 17th.

That shot was nearly identical to the one she hit on the 139-yard, par-3 16th hole on Thursday, an 8-iron with a slight fade that landed just short of the cup and then trickled in for a hole in one. Suddenly, she went from 1 over to 1 under (she started on the back nine). Her ace served as a kind of jump start, and the former two-time Minnesota PGA Junior Girls champion took off from there, shooting a 67 and taking the first-round lead.

When Shibuno bogeyed the 18th hole Saturday afternoon, her lead was down to one.

Olson, who won the U.S. Girls Junior in 2009 and over the next four years at NDSU broke Julie Inkster's NCAA Division I record for victories (it was 17) by winning 20 times, has been on the LPGA Tour for seven years, and has yet to win out there. She's come close. Two years ago, she led another major, the Evian Championship after 71 holes, but made a double bogey on the last hole and lost to Angela Stanford.  

On Friday, the 36-hole cut fell at 145, 3 over. Among those who slipped in just under the wire was Ji Youg2 Kim, 24, a regular -- and two-time winner -- on the Korean LPGA Tour. This is her first U.S. Women's Open, and she shot 75 in the first round. She started her second round on the back nine and was 6 over for the tournament after 15 holes, but she birdied the last three holes to shoot 70 and make the cut on the number. 

On Saturday, she started her round on the back nine again, and she made her fourth birdie in a row on the 10th hole (433 yards, par 4). No one else got through the third round without a bogey, but Yeong2 Kim managed to do it, and she made three more bogeys, at Nos. 16, 4 and 9, where she chipped in to cap off a 67. Having started the day in last place, basically -- she was in an 18-way tie for 48th -- she ended it in a tie for third at 212. 

Yeong2 Kim is now in a position to do what Larry Nelson did in the 1983 U.S. Men's Open, when he made the cut on the number, then shot 65 and 67 in the last two rounds and won the tournament by a stroke over Tom Watson.

Saturday looked pleasant enough. It was sunny and mild, virtually no wind, but the soggy course was taking a toll. The field averaged just over 75 for the day. After Friday's round 19 players were under par for the tournament. After Saturday's, only four were still in red numbers. Besides Young2 Kim, only one other player broke par on Day 3, and that was Hae Ran Ryu, who shot 70. Moriya Jutanugarn appeared to be on her way to a 70 before she bladed her blast from a fried-egg lie in the right greenside bunker at the 17th hole, and ended up having to make a 12-foot putt for a double bogey. She was in another right greenside bunker at 18, but got it up and down for a par and a 72 and is tied with Yeong2 Kim for third.

Among those tied for fifth at 213 is former No. 1 in the world Lydia Ko. She's been solid all week, with a 71, a 70 and a 72.

The current No. 1, Jin Young Ko, is part of the six-way tie for ninth, at 214, along with No. 2 Sei Young Kim, Hae Ran Ryu, Cristie Kerr, who won this tournament in 2007, A Lim Kim and another former No. 1, Ariya Jutanugarn, a two-time major champion. She won this tournament in 2018.

It's possible that they could be wishing they had a dome over the course again on Sunday. More rain is predicted, and tee times have been moved up accordingly. The first groups are now scheduled to go off at 7:45 a.m.

75th U.S. Women's Open

At Champions Golf Club

Cypress Creek (par 71)

Jackrabbit (par 71)

Houston, Texas

Third-round results (the final two rounds are being played entirely at Cypress Creek)

1. Hinako Shibuno               68-67-74--209

2. Amy Olson                     67-72-71--210

T3. Moriya Jutanugarn         68-72-72--212

T3. Ji Yeong2 Kim                75-70-67--212

T5. Megan Khang                70-69-74--213

T5. Kaitlyn Papp (a)             71-68-74--213

T5. Lydia Ko                         71-70-72--213

T5. Yealimi Noh                    72-69-72--213

T9. Ariya Jutanugarn            70-70-74--214

T9. Cristie Kerr                      71-69-74--214

T9. Jin Young Ko                    73-70-71--214

T9. Hae Ran Ryu                    72-72-70--214

T9. Sei Young Kim                  72-69-73--214

T9. A Lim Kim                         68-74-72--214

MIssed the cut -- 145 (+3)

T149. Kim Kaufman             78-79--157


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