PINEHURST — What a difference a week makes.
Unlike the men during their tournament when just two players posted under-par rounds on Saturday, several women took advantage of “Moving Day.”
Eight players went low, including veteran Juli Inkster.
All the seven-time major champion did was shoot a 4-under 66 to vault herself into contention. Her 66 was the best score of the tournament, topping the pair of 68s Michelle Wie shot in the opening two rounds and the 68 fired by Amy Yang Saturday.
Inkster moved into a four-way tie for third, four shots behind Wie and Yang.
“I came in hitting it pretty good, so I kind of felt good about that,” Inkster said. “My putting is always a question mark. Today I putted really well. I made a lot of 3-, 4-footers for par. This game is so weird. You never know. It’s like, the first day I played great. Yesterday I played horrible. Today I played great. So hopefully I’m going to break the pattern and have a good one tomorrow.”
If experience means anything, than the 53-year-old has a good chance to pull out a surprise victory at a tournament that was dominated earlier with the week with talk about 11-year-old Lucy Li. Inkster knows it will be difficult to get the final in her final U.S. Open appearance but plans on having fun.
“Let’s just say I’m in a lot better shape today than I was yesterday,” Inkster said. “I knew I had to come out here, if I wanted to do anything, and have a good round and I was able to put it together today. So who knows tomorrow. I’m just going to enjoy it. It’s a great golf course, so enjoy the walk.
“You can think and you can dream all you want, but the bottom line is you’ve got to come out and make the shots. So, tomorrow I’ve got to come out and make the shots. And if I’m tied for the lead coming up 18, then maybe I’ll think about it. I’ve got a long way to go. I’m just going to enjoy the moment and hit a few balls and see what happens.”
Even though it was a struggle at times for Yang in the third round, she managed to string together enough good shots to make her move and grab the outright lead for the majority of the back nine Saturday afternoon. Yang took advantage of Wie’s struggles on holes 11, 12 and 14 to take a 1-shot lead, but surrendered it with a bogey on the final hole.
“I played really solid,” Yang said. “My shots were better than the last two days, and I had really good speed on the greens.”
Even players in the back of the pack found the course setup by the USGA in the third round to their liking. Brittany Lincicome shot a 1-under 69 to improve to 6 over for the tournament.
“It was definitely not easy, by any means, but I felt like I was driving it better,” Lincicome said. “Obviously, finding the fairway and not hitting it in the native every shot, makes it stress free. Finding the fairway all day and hitting it to the middle of the greens. On the yardage book we wrote down these little pink spots on where to hit it on each hole. Regardless of where the pin was, we were just going to hit it to that spot and putt to it. Obviously, I got lucky. Like the last hole the pin was in my little pink area. I made some birdies, that was nice.”
Reach sports editor Shawn Stinson at 910-997-3111, ext. 14 or on Twitter @scgolfer.