(Wheaton, Ill.) - Laura Davies seized control of the inaugural U.S. Senior Women’s Open in Round 3 on Saturday, shooting a 7-under-par 66 to take a five-stroke lead over fellow World Golf Hall of Fame player Juli Inkster heading into Sunday’s final round at Chicago Golf Club.
Inkster punctuated the first bogey-free round of the championship with a 20-foot eagle putt on the 18th hole and is alone in second place at 6-under 213 after a 5-under 68. Inkster’s and Davies’ rounds are the only ones recorded in the 60s thus far in the championship. The five-time USGA champion was able to match Davies’ 5-under-par 32 on the back nine, but realizes the daunting task she faces in attempting to track down the front-runner.
“I’m going to have to play a clean round of golf, do the little things well,” said Inkster, who won the 1999 and 2002 U.S. Women’s Opens. “On No. 2 today, I chipped it over the green and made par [while Davies birdied]. And on No. 4, I missed a shortie. I’m going to have to play a really clean round to even have a chance.”
Trish Johnson, of England, began the day tied for the lead with Davies and lost ground with an even-par 73, losing four of the seven strokes on two par-5 holes. Johnson stands in third place alone at 4-under 215, and will again play with Davies and Inkster in the final round.
The biggest blow by Davies had to be the 75-foot putt she sank from the back of the green for eagle on No. 12, which extended her lead to six strokes over both Johnson and Inkster.
“I hit probably the best 3-iron I’ve ever hit in my life, but it went way, way long to the back of the green,” said Davies, who in 2014 was designated Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire for her service to golf. “The putt had about 4 feet of break one way and then about 3 feet of break back the other way. I hit it about a foot outside right, and it went in, and it was good fun.”
A final tap-in birdie on the 435-yard 18th hole made Davies a total of 9 under on the par 5s so far this week on the course designed in 1923 by Seth Raynor and C.B. Macdonald, which was softened by ½-inch of rain before the round began and played to 6,196 yards on Saturday, the shortest of the three days.
“We were very lucky; that rain this morning helped,” said Davies, who tied for second earlier this year in the LPGA Tour’s Founders Cup event. “I thought if the weather had stayed nice, it might have been unbelievably difficult today. It’s never an easy golf course, but when it’s soft like that, you do feel like if your irons are on, you’ve got a chance to make lots of birdies.”
Danielle Ammaccapane, 52, a seven-time winner on Tour, shot 71 on Saturday and is the only other player under par, at 2-under 217.
With only four players under par and only three foes within 12 strokes of Davies, she is just far enough ahead to feel uncomfortable.
“I’ve guaranteed myself a sleepless night now,” said Davies, 54, who has won 65 times between the LPGA Tour and the Ladies European Tour. “I’m not saying I’d rather be tied for the lead, but you sleep a lot better when you’re tied for the lead. It’s there for me to lose now. If I go and shoot 3 under, 4 under tomorrow, then it would be mine, but that’s a lot of hard work in front of me. I know a big lead like that seems a lot, but it really isn’t in golf, is it? We all know that.”
Inkster wasn’t buying it. “Laura is going to be tough because she hits a few wild ones, but she seems to recover,” said the Los Altos, Calif., resident. “If she plays like she did today, no one is going to catch her. But that’s why we play. We’ll just see what happens.”
For the second straight day, the threat of inclement weather required tee times to be moved up for Sunday’s final round. Davies, Inkster and Johnson will start at 9:09 a.m. CDT.
With 1-Under 72, Leach Leads Amateur Field
Martha Leach, of Hebron, Ky., posted a 1-under 72, one of just five under-par rounds on Saturday, to take a three-stroke over Patricia Ehrhart through three rounds in the race for low amateur of the inaugural championship.
Leach’s day was highlighted by a 121-yard hole-out for eagle on No. 14, as she knocked the ball into the hole on the fly with a 9-iron.
“I said, wow, what a time to do it,” said Leach, 56, the younger sister of six-time USGA champion Hollis Stacy. “Pretty spectacular.”
Leach was greeted by her older sister post-round with the exclamation, “You kicked my butt.” They both started the day at 7-over-par 153 in a tie for 26th place, but Stacy shot 77 on Saturday as Leach took a five-stroke advantage for family bragging rights. Leach is tied for 14th after 54 holes.
Davies is tied for the lead in total putts, with 91 through three rounds, joined by Barb Moxness (T8 on the leader board) and Jean Bartholomew (T31). Inkster is right behind them with 92 putts, joined by Leach (T14).
Inkster hit all 14 fairways on Saturday, and she hit 16 of the 18 greens in her bogey-free round. Helen Alfredsson leads all players through three days in greens in regulation with 46 of 54, and she is currently tied for 10th. Barb Mucha (T5) and Michele Redman (T14) are next-best with 44 of 54.
Nancy Bowen, who is tied for 36th through 54 holes, leads in fairways hit with 41 of 42, well ahead of Elaine Crosby (36 and T10) and Nancy Taylor (35 and T45).
Rosie Jones, a 13-time winner on the LPGA Tour who is solo seventh after a 2-under 71 on Saturday:
“If I’m going to do all the work and prepare coming in, then I want to win, and I knew it was going to be a long shot. There’s a lot of good players out here who play week in and week out on the European Tour or on the LPGA. It’s going to be hard to catch Laura at this point, but I’d like to catch a few more people on the board.”
Martha Leach, on the difficult greens at Chicago Golf Club:
“I spoke with the head golf professional [John Guyton] about the greens and he said he’s been here 12 years and he still shakes his head. I told myself, I’m here for one week. I’m going to commit to what I see and just go with it and be nicer to myself. Why stress yourself? I’m not doing this for a living.”
Patricia Ehrhart, a 2017 U.S. Senior Women’s Amateur semifinalist, whose friend Jimmy Buffett joined her earlier in the week:
“He’s credentialed as my player instructor, so that’s pretty funny, but he turned into the caddie on Monday [when Buffett wore a caddie bib]. Then somebody turned him into my uncle, so God knows what he's going to be by tomorrow.”