Ariya Jutanugarn of Thailand took full advantage of the favourable scoring conditions as she shot a third round of six-under-par 66 on the Marquess’ Course at Woburn Golf Club to establish a two shot lead over South Korean Mirim Lee heading into the final round of the Ricoh Women’s British Open.
At 16-under-par, the 20-year-old from Bangkok lowered by a stroke the championship record of 15-under-par set by Caroline Masson at Carnoustie in 2011.
“I think there’s no pressure for me, because the only thing I want to do is have fun,” said Jutanugarn, who has used her prodigious length off the tee to full effect so far this week.
One of the strongest players on tour, Jutanugarn chose to keep her driver out of the bag for a third successive day and instead used her 2-iron, which she hits around 240 yards. “When I don’t have a driver in my bag, I feel more comfortable; I can hit 2-iron and be well placed off the tee,” she said.
The world number seven found the 6448-yard, par 72 course relatively straightforward, picking up birdies on the second, third, fifth and eighth, where she dramatically chipped in for birdie, to move two ahead of the field and stayed in control with further birdies on the 10th and 14th.
A four-time winner who earned her maiden professional title at the LET’s Lalla Meryem Cup aged 17, Jutanugarn took an extended break from competition for almost two years due to a shoulder injury, but soared into the world’s top ten after capturing three straight victories on the LPGA in May, which coincidentally is her nickname. If she wins her first Major on Sunday, she joked that she may change it to ‘July’.
With more sunshine and light winds expected for Sunday, a Major championship – and the record winning total of 19-under-par set by Karen Stupples at Sunningdale in 2004 – is looking reachable for many of the players, including Lee, who equalled the lowest round in the championship with a first round of 62 on Thursday.
On day three, Lee bogeyed the third but hit back with birdies on the fifth, seventh, 10th and 12th to end the day three strokes clear of third placed Mo Martin (69), the 2014 champion at Royal Birkdale.
Scotland’s Catriona Matthew, the 2009 champion at Royal Lytham, tied for the lead after three birdies in her first four holes, but her challenge faltered when she bogeyed the 14th and 15th for a 71 that left her six strokes off the pace in outright fourth.
Huge crowds turned out to support Matthew’s fellow Team GB member Charley Hull, who had a horror start with a triple-bogey seven on the first hole. After her second shot came to rest on the second tee, her third rebounded off a tree trunk and her fourth to the green was followed by three putts. A round of 75 saw her slip back into a tie for 40th place.
However, rising star Leona Maguire from Ireland had a 68 that lifted her into 10th position on seven-under-par and she is a full seven strokes clear of the next best placed amateur, Bronte Law from England.
The fourth and final round of the 40th Ricoh Women’s British Open begins at 7.40am on Sunday and the leading pair of Jutanugarn and Lee will tee off at 2.10pm.