Two things happened on Saturday at the 78th U.S. Women’s Open: the sun came out, and the brisk winds that make Pebble Beach Golf Links such a challenge arrived on property.
After two days of damp, overcast conditions, the third round of the first women’s major championship on these historic links featured the kind of weather so many have been accustomed to seeing when U.S. Opens are contested here.
To sum it up, Pebble Beach became a survival test.
Even with a few tees moved up and the par-72 layout playing the shortest of the week at 6,334 yards, the winds that gusted as high as 25 miles per hour caused havoc for a majority of the 74 competitors who made the cut.
One player who seemed immune to the conditions, however, was Nasa Hataoka. The two-time major championship runner-up – playoff defeats in the 2018 KPMG Women’s PGA Championship and 2021 U.S. Women’s Open at The Olympic Club – carded the round of the championship, a bogey-free, 6-under-par 66 to take a one-stroke lead over Allisen Corpuz.
Hataoka, 24, of Japan, sits at 7-under 209 through 54 holes. Corpuz, who started the third round two strokes off the lead, fired a 71.
LPGA Tour rookie Bailey Tardy, the surprise 36-hole leader who qualified for this championship and is No. 455 in the Rolex Women’s Golf Rankings, struggled early and carded a 75 to sit three strokes back with 2014 Amundi Evian champion Hyo Joo Kim (73) at 4-under 212.
Two-time Women’s British Open champion Jiyai Shin (70) and fellow Korean Hae Ran Ryu (73) are the only two other players under par through three rounds at 2-under 214.
Hataoka was simply brilliant in Round 3, especially on the second nine, which played two strokes higher than the outward nine (36.3-38.4). Not only did she shoot 32 over this difficult stretch, but also managed to produce key par saves on 12 and 15, while chipping in for birdie from 39 feet at the par-4 16th. She followed with an 11-foot birdie on the par-3 17th. She currently leads the field in strokes gained putting (+2.25) and is tied for third in greens in regulation (36 of 54). On Saturday, she was +4.01 in strokes gained putting.
“I would say that from around the seventh hole I started to feel the wind, and of course we were at the waterfront, so it was quite different,” said Hataoka, who owns six LPGA Tour wins. “Then, of course, I had some of the par saves, and so compared to my last two days, I think that from the back nine onwards I did pretty well.”
Corpuz, 25, will join Hataoka in Sunday’s final grouping. Growing up in Hawaii, the University of Southern California graduate frequently played in breezy conditions. And she looked in full control of her emotions and game most of the round before taking an unfortunate bogey on the par-5 closing hole, after she found her third shot buried in a greenside bunker. Nevertheless, she was one of the few to navigate the challenging final 11 holes at Pebble Beach, shooting even par through that stretch. Now, she has a chance to register her first professional win.
The 2021 USA Curtis Cup competitor holed out a chip on No. 5 for her first birdie and followed with short birdies on Nos. 10 and 14.
“It means a ton. It's just really special to be in the final pairing,” said Corpuz, “and I'm really excited and looking forward to it.”
Tardy never got the early mojo she had in the first two rounds. She bogeyed the par-5 sixth, which she eagled the first two days, after finding the penalty area to the right of the fairway with her tee shot. Her first birdie came on No. 11 when she holed out a pitch from greenside rough. But an ensuing bogey on No. 12 when her tee shot found a greenside bunker – and a costly double-bogey 6 on 15 after a poor 8-iron approach from the fairway – jilted that momentum. The 2016 USA Curtis Cup competitor did bounce back with a birdie on 16, a clutch par save on 17 and a two-putt par on 18 to get into Sunday’s penultimate pairing with Kim.
Sunday’s final round will begin at 7 a.m. PDT with the final pairing of Nasa Hataoka and Allisen Corpuz teeing off at 1:20 p.m. NBC Sports has live coverage from 3 p.m. to 9 p.m. EDT, with Sirius/XM Radio broadcasting live from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m.
“I think Jay is just awesome. He stays really, really calm. I don't know if he feels that way on the inside, but he definitely projects that, and that helps me a lot. He just tries to keep it fun out there.” – Allisen Corpuz on her caddie Jay Monahan (not related to the PGA Tour commissioner)
“I think the quality of the greens and the grass quality is similar, and there are quite a bit of uphill areas as well as a great deal of bounce here, so I am hoping that I can keep in mind while I'm playing tomorrow everything that I've learned through my putting practice and to be able to be victorious over the next 18 holes.” – Nasa Hataoka when asked about the similarities between Pebble Beach and The Olympic Club in San Francisco, where she lost the playoff to Yuka Saso two years ago
“I'm still in contention and I didn't play my best today. Just focus on hitting more fairways tomorrow, and I think the rest will come easy.” – Bailey Tardy
“I just hope that my experience will enable me to play better tomorrow. I hope tomorrow's game will come out the way that I expected and practiced.” – Hyo Joo Kim
“I think I [have] the most pressure on this tour (LPGA) because I'm playing mainly Japan now. I didn't come [to the United States] for a while. I'm really enjoying how beautiful this course. Pebble Beach is one of my dream golf courses, so it really feels like I'm really lucky [to play here]. A little sad we have only one more day.” – Jiyai Shin, who owns 11 LPGA Tour victories but now plays exclusively in Asia
“The biggest problem with me is I get bored on the golf course because there's such good views. When I'm getting bored, I just look around and it kind of takes me away from it, and kind of get more interested in my golf, and I'm really enjoying it out there.” – Charley Hull after shooting 1-under 71 to post even-par 216 after 54 holes
David Shefter is a senior staff writer for the USGA. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.