The third round of the 78th U.S. Women’s Open at the Pebble Beach Golf Links was a masterclass in the demands made by the intensity of weekend competition. Player after player came out in attack mode, making birdies, only to discover what Pebble Beach giveth in the first seven holes it takes away over the last 11.
The brilliant bogey-free, 6-under-par 66 by Nasa Hataoka was the exception that proved the difficulty of the demands that lay ahead. Hataoka’s round was the best of the day by four strokes and the best of the championship by two. Now the 24-year-old from Japan takes a one-stroke lead over Allisen Corpuz into the final round of a championship that has already lived up to the expectations of the first U.S. Women’s Open at Pebble Beach.
Here are 3 things to know going into Sunday’s final round.
The fact that Hataoka went low Saturday and Corpuz posted a 71 likely eliminated a lot of players who needed missteps at the top of the leader board. Going into Sunday, this appears to be a six-player contest with Hataoka and Corpuz leading the way. Hyo Joo Kim, who shot a first-round 61 in winning he 2014 Amundi Evian Championship, an LPGA Tour major, and rookie Bailey Tardy are tied for third, three strokes back at 4 under par.
The biggest threat from back in the pack is Jiyai Shin, who has been playing the Japan LPGA since 2014 but owns 11 LPGA Tour victories, including major titles at the AIG Women’s Open in 2008 and 2012. The former world No. 1 also has 30 wins on the JLPGA and clearly knows how to close out a championship. She’s tied for fifth, five strokes back, with Hae Ran Ryu, a five-time winner on the KLPGA who tied for 13th in the 2020 U.S Women’s Open.
Everyone else is too far back.
Hataoka is on the short list of the best LPGA players without a major title. The owner of six LPGA victories has twice lost playoff in majors: the 2018 KPMG Women’s PGA at Kemper Lakes and the 2021 U.S. Women’s Open at The Olympic Club up the road in San Francisco. She also has five other top-10s in majors, including T-10 in the 2018 U.S. Women’s Open.
Nasa is a momentum player who is tough to beat when she gets on a roll. In her six LPGA victories, all but one of her 20 rounds were in the 60s, with the other round being a 70. The question now is whether she can ride the momentum of Saturday’s 66 to a spot on the Harton S. Semple Trophy.
Four amateurs made the cut this week and all have a shot at being at the prize ceremony as the low amateur. The leader for the honor Aine Donegan, who despite a quadruple-bogey 9 on the par-4 eighth hole on Saturday, sits at 4-over 220, three strokes ahead of Benedetta Moresco and Monet Chun and five clear of Amari Avery.
All had their struggles in Saturday’s third round with Donegan shooting a 75, Moresco and Chun a 76 and Avery a 78. Donegan, of the Republic of Ireland, offset the 9 by making birdies on three of her first seven holes. After that hiccup, the Louisiana State rising junior played the final 10 holes in 1 over par, showing remarkable resiliency.
Ron Sirak is a Massachusetts-based freelance writer whose work has previously appeared on USGA websites.