(LYTHAM ST ANNES, LANCASHIRE – 1st August 2009) – Scotland’s Catriona Matthew edged closer to her first major championship victory with a round of 71 on Saturday, taking a three shot lead into the final round of the RICOH Women’s British Open.
The 39-year-old from North Berwick finished at four-under-par, three clear of Christina Kim from the United States, at Royal Lytham and St Annes Golf Club in Lancashire, England.
Matthew returned to tournament golf at the Evian Masters last week, just 10 weeks after giving birth to her second baby, Sophie. Her parents are helping to look after the children this week and the baby is staying in a separate bedroom, although she has “big lungs” according to Matthew, who can hear her in the neighbouring room.
“I’ve been playing a lot at home so I feel like I got back into it quite easily,” said Matthew, who finished equal second at the 2007 Kraft Nabisco Championship after the birth of Katie, her first child. “I’m a bit more relaxed and trying not to get as annoyed as I did.”
Matthew began the third round tied for the lead with Italian Giulia Sergas at three-under-par and was one over for the front nine after two bogeys at the third and fourth holes. She birdied the fifth hole and picked up further shots at the 10th and 13th, moving to four-under-par for the tournament.
She hit a beautiful five-iron to five feet on the par-four 17th but managed a par. “I’ll take a four on that hole any day,” she said. She rolled a four-footer for par on 18 ensuring a huge roar from the supporting gallery, who followed their great hope throughout her round. “The crowds were fantastic and they were cheering me on all the way. It felt like a last day today,” she added.
Matthew has an opportunity to become the first Briton to win a major championship since Karen Stupples triumphed at Sunningdale in 2004.
“I feel like I have a really good chance here. I hit seven or eight greens on the back nine and if I can go out there and do that tomorrow, I’ll have a good chance.
“Obviously I’m trying to stay relaxed. It was difficult out there. I was trying to stay out of the bunkers and have a par putt on every green. Obviously its great being ahead but there’s a lot of work to be done tomorrow.”
Last week’s Evian Masters champion, Ai Miyazato from Japan, shot 70 and shared third place with last year’s winner, South Korean Jiyai Shin, who had a 68.
Shin has won four times since claiming her first major championship victory at Sunningdale last year. She said she has more confidence and her popularity is so great that she has released a pop song in her native Korea. “Maybe tomorrow after I win I will sing. I will practise tonight!” she giggled. Worryingly for Matthew, at home Shin is known as the “Final Round Queen,” due to her previous record of come from behind victories in Korea.
Her compatriot Song-Hee Kim carded a 74 and was lurking a stroke further back on one-over-par alongside Mika Miyazato, who is no relation to namesake Ai.
Shinobu Morimizato of Japan, South Korea’s Kyeong Bae and the United States duo of Paula Creamer and Jane Park rounded out the top ten in a share of seventh place.
Sergas carded a 78 which took her back into a share of 11th on three-over, seven shots off the pace. Meanwhile European Solheim Cup Team prospects Maria Hjorth from Sweden and Norway’s Marianne Skarpnord finished the day at five-over in a share of 18th position.