SOUTHERN PINES, NC (AP) — Minjee Lee appears to be on a mission.
The 26-year-old Australian shot a 4-under 67 on Saturday to take a three-stroke lead over American Mina Harigae in the final round of the US Women’s Open.
“My approach (Sunday) will be the same as the last three days – I’m just going to try and birdie as much as possible and give myself as many opportunities on the greens as possible,” Lee said.
At 13-under 200, Lee was within striking distance of the US Women’s Open scoring record from par held by Juli Inkster, who finished at 16-under 272 in 1999 at Old Waverly. Inkster did it on a par-72 course, while the par-71 at Pine Needles.
“I didn’t really think about it,” Lee said. “If I play well, it will come with it, right?”
Lee, ranked fourth, won the Founders Cup three weeks ago in New Jersey in the circuit’s last stroke play event for his seventh victory on the LPGA Tour. She is trying to win her second major title after winning the 2021 Evian Championship.
Harigae shot a 70. England’s Bronte Law finished third at 7 under after a 68.
South Korean Jin Young Ko and American Nelly Korda, the best players in the world rankings, failed to take advantage of the move.
Top-ranked Ko struggled with her putter and finished at 71, leaving her tied for fourth at 6 under with three-time major winner Anna Nordqvist, Xiyu Lin, Lydia Ko, Hye-Jin Choi and l lover Ingrid Lindblad. Lydia Ko had the fastest lap of the day with a 66, while Lin shot 67, Jim Young Ko 71 and Nodqvist and Choi 72.
Korda was 4 under after a 70.
“It’s definitely not the finish I wanted,” said Korda, who bogeyed the last three holes after battling to get past 7 under. ” It was hard. I’m sure it was hard to watch too.
It appeared that Harigae could make a run when she used a throwing wedge 115 yards out and her ball rolled less than an inch from the cup. She birdied for a birdie and moved to 10 under, taking a one-shot lead over Lee.
But it seemed to wake Lee up.
Lee stormed back, birdying numbers 9, 10, 11 and 12 to reach 13 under and took a four-shot lead after Harigae bogeyed 11 and 12. Lee repeatedly edged Harigae and used solid approach shots to set up 12, 12, 8, and 6-foot putts, all of which she made during the four-hole run.
Harigae birdied the 16th to shoot within three.
“She hit some great shots the next few holes, and I just couldn’t follow that,” Harigae said.
Said Lee: “I didn’t really think about how Mina was playing. I was just trying to get as many birdies as possible just to try to post a good score. I didn’t really notice her playing a lot because I was really in my zone.
Lindblad provided some excitement early on when she birdied three of her first four holes to tie the lead at 9 under, creating buzz around the course over whether she could become just the second amateur to win the US Women’s Open and the first since 1967.
However, the Swedish LSU player played the last 14 holes 3-over par.
“It was a good start, then I kind of got a really bad shot on five and bogeyed,” Lindblad said.
If she wins, she will not be able to win the $1.8 million top prize due to her amateur status.