Amy Olson from the United States showed no sign of nerves as she shot a bogey-free 65 to take a two stroke lead into the final round of the Evian Championship, the final major of 2018.
Locked in a four-way share of the lead overnight, the 26-year-old from North Dakota started strongly with a birdie on the first hole in unseasonably warm conditions and temperatures of 24C at the Evian Resort Golf Club.
Although there was a tussle for the lead on the front nine, she regained her advantage with an eagle on the long ninth hole. She then made three further gains at the narrow par-4 12th hole and the short 14th and 16th to finish on a 54-hole total of 14-under-par.
Looking for her first title in five years on the LPGA Tour, Olson thrives in the majors and finished tied for ninth at the ANA Inspiration in California in April, having played in the final group with the winner, Pernilla Lindberg.
“The thing I learned the most from playing with Pernilla is that you shouldn’t worry about bogeys. Bogeys are going to happen,” said Olson, who has her older brother as her caddie for the championship. “Patience is going to be key tomorrow.”
South Korean Sei Young Kim is two strokes back in second place after firing a bogey-free 64 and she felt that the greens were slightly soft and attackable. The 25-year-old from Seoul has 12 professional wins, including seven on the LPGA Tour and finished tied for sixth in the Evian Championship last year. She has the most wins on the LPGA without a major and set the all-time record for 72-hole scoring in LPGA history with a total of 31-under-par 257 in the 2018 Thornberry Creek LPGA Classic.
She said: “I feel great with a bogey-free round today. That was my goal and I didn’t watch the leader board.”
The 2014 Ricoh Women’s British Open champion Mo Martin from the United States is two strokes further back in third position, with former world number one and Olympic gold medallist Inbee Park from South Korea, Angela Stanford from the United States and England’s Georgia Hall tied for fourth place on nine-under-par.
Five strokes back heading into the final round, Hall, the recent Ricoh Women’s British Open champion, said: “I don’t mind where I am. It’s do-able but I definitely need to hole some putts.
“It was a bit up and down today. I had a good front nine but I missed some on the back. The pin positions were tough.”
Hall was briefly in the lead on 10-under but bogeyed the 12th and missed her eagle chance from eight feet on the 13th, before dropping another shot on the par-3 14th, where she pulled her tee shot left of the green. She blocked her tee shot right on the 17th, but managed to save par after chipping out to the fairway from behind a group of trees.
“The 17th is a tough hole and I’m glad I made that eight-footer. On 14 I was in between clubs and thought a rescue was too much so I hit my iron as hard as I could. I had a great chance for eagle on 13, so that was disappointing.”
The round of the day belonged to Ryann O’Toole from the United States, whose eight-under-par 63 was the lowest round of her career.
She said: “Just the best round in competition since I was 16. Since I was 16, I’ve just shot a bunch of 7-unders and haven’t been able to break it.
“Today was good. It’s funny, I can’t wait to see Jenny Shin, because we got done after 18 yesterday and after we finished the round, she looked at me and goes, You just need to keep your putter lower on the back. That’s why they’ve all been jumping. I’m like, Uh! Okay. So afterwards I went and worked on it, and today I guess it just was rolling well.”
O’Toole is tied for seventh and will start the final round six strokes back.
There are five US players in the top 10 heading into Sunday. The last American to win at Evian was Natalie Gulbis in 2007, when the tournament was called the Evian Masters. There have also been two first-time winners, like Olson, in the Majors this year.