Park takes four-stroke lead at U.S. Women's Open

Joe Pantorno, The Sports Xchange
The SportsXchange

SOUTHAMPTON, N.Y. -- After the first round on Thursday, Inbee Park mentioned that the United States Golf Association was "generous" in how it laid out Sebonack Golf Club for Day 1 of the 68th U.S. Women's Open.
When Sebonack was done with the best women's golfers in the world on Day 3, however, only five of the 68 players that made the cut were under par, and only Park broke the par of 72 on Saturday.
While the rain stayed away, the wind swept through, making an already difficult course that much harder.
"It was tough out there with the wind," Park said. "The pin positions were tougher; it made putting much harder. Anything can happen out here on this golf course."
Park, the No. 1 player in the Rolex Women's Golf Rankings, had everything going to plan until the back nine. That's when things started to go wrong.
Eight pars and a birdie on the front nine were wiped out by three straight bogeys on Nos. 11-13.
"11 and 12 were not bad bogeys. You could make up a couple bogeys," Park said. "But 13 was a little bit disappointing. I think that actually got to me."
No need to panic though, as Park rebounded with birdies on Nos. 14-15 with one more on 18 to finish at 1-under-par 71 and ended the day at 10-under and a four-stroke lead over fellow South Korean I.K. Kim going into the final round. Park's birdie on 14 to break the bogey streak was a 30-footer.
"Those three bogeys were tough to handle," Park said. "On 14 I thought I hit it a little too strong, but I was lucky."
Park, who has won five times on the LPGA Tour this season, is trying to match Babe Zaharias, who in 1950 became the only woman to win the first three majors of the year.
"I'm just going to try and do the same things I've done the last three days," Park said. "It will be a big day, but it's just another round of golf."
While Park cruised through the front nine, it looked like the wheels would fall off for Kim. Following rounds of 68-69 to trail Park by only two strokes, she carded three bogeys and a double bogey in the first seven holes.
"I was tired. But it was tough out there all day," Kim said. "I'm not sure it was the wind that got me, but playing conditions were very tough. I had some tough lies, tough breaks."
Kim shot 4-over on her first seven holes, but turned things around with birdies on the eighth, ninth, 14th and 18th to salvage a 73 and remain in second place.
"I was able to stay focused," Kim said. "I mean, it's the U.S. Open. It's going to test you in every way."
Jodi Ewart Shadoff of England, who had to finish her second round Saturday morning because of the fog suspension the evening before, birdied her final hole to shoot 74.
"I'd be lying if I said I wasn't nervous on the first tee," Shadoff said. "But the first couple holes steadied me down."
Shadoff is seven strokes back and will join Park and Kim in the final threesome Sunday.
Shadoff matched Park's par parade with seven in a row to start, but she fell back with four bogeys on the back nine.
"I kept looking at the scoreboard every once in a while," Shadoff said. "They lengthened the course by a pretty good distance, so it was playing a lot tougher today."
So Yeon Ryu of South Korea, the 2011 U.S. Open champion, shot 73 on her 23rd birthday to follow a 69 and is tied for fourth with Angela Stanford, who followed a second-round 68 with a 74.
"Before I teed off, I really wanted to enjoy my birthday. I think today my shot was great, almost perfect for me," Ryu said. "The wind was quite strong so it was really hard to putt in.
Lizette Salas, who came into Round 3 five strokes off the lead, fell out of contention with four bogeys and two double bogeys en route to an 82 that dropped her to a tie for 25th.