A howling wind proved to be a stiff challenge for the leaders on day three of the Aberdeen Standard Investments Ladies Scottish Open, but Ariya Jutanugarn and Amy Yang refused to be blown off course.
After two days of glorious sunshine at Gullane, the third day was played in very different conditions: around 10 degrees cooler and in a near gale.
Overnight leader Tiffany Joh, who had started at 13-under, made a birdie at the second, but struggled to a nine-over 80.
The pack will be chasing two of the most prolific winners in the field, who shot matching rounds of two-over 73 to share the lead on eight-under.
The 2016 Ricoh Women’s British Open champion and world no.3, from Thailand, Jutanugarn took the lead when the chipped in for eagle on the 16th. She was quickly joined by Yang, a seven time winner, who made a steady birdie on 18.
Although she confessed to not really liking links golf at the beginning of the week, Jutanugarn seems to have been persuaded. With a wide smile, she said: “I would say I didn’t like it much but when the wind start to blow today, but I said, here is the Scottish Open, here is the real one now.”
Yang, who celebrated her 29th birthday on Saturday, felt that putting was the most difficult aspect of the game in the conditions and Australian Minjee Lee, a stroke back in third place, agreed. She said: “There was no break in the wind and it was really, really hard to putt. I missed a couple of short ones, but I think everybody did.”
South Koreans Haeji Kang and So Yeon Ryu share fourth on six-under, while Carlota Ciganda moved into contention with a 68, which was the second lowest score of the day. She started the third round 11 shots back, but is now just three behind on five-under-par.
The big-hitter from Spain, who leads the tournament driving distance stats with an average drive of 294.7 yards, drove to the front of the 18th green with a massive blow which ran approximately 370 yards from the tee before making a birdie on the final hole.
She said afterwards: “I like playing in tough conditions. When we come to the U.K. I’m expecting tough conditions and wind and rain and it’s playing tough, so I like that. Today I think was the first day playing tough. The first two days it was just really nice weather. It was lovely. But I like these conditions better.
“I love links golf, and I love playing in Scotland, the Home of Golf. It’s always fun to come here. I would love to (win), especially before next week.”
Jin-Young Ko, Lee-Anne Pace and Tiffany Joh are tied for seventh, four shots from the lead, while Sarah Kemp’s 67 was the lowest round of the day.
Heading into Sunday’s final round action it could not get much better, with the names that are on the leader board. The defending champion next week at Royal Lytham, In-Kyung Kim, joins Kemp, Georgia Hall, Cristie Kerr, Karrie Webb, Angela Stanford and Mina Harigae in joint 10th place, five from the lead.
With more rain and wind forecast for Sunday, Jutanugarn would be happy with an even par round in the extreme conditions. If the synopsis is correct, then the winner will have earned it.