Saturday, February 24, 2018
Golf

World No. 1 Lydia Ko takes third-round lead at U.S. Women's Open

SAN MARTIN, Calif. — When Lydia Ko first came to a U.S. Women's Open four years ago, her hands were shaking. Now with two major titles under her belt by age 19, she is able to keep her emotions under control and project a picture of calm.

Ko birdied the 18th hole to cap a 2-under 70 in the third round Saturday that put her in the lead at the U.S. Women's Open, bolstering her chance for her third major title in less than a year.

"I think nerves are good because it means you're excited," Ko said. "You're ready. It means a lot to you. You've got to be able to control it. But a little bit of nerves is always good. It can end up being a little bit of adrenaline."

Whatever Ko's doing is working.

At 18, she became the youngest woman to win a major last year at the Evian Championship, and she followed by winning the ANA Inspiration this spring. Now 19, she's in contention for her first U.S. Open title after failing to make the top 10 in her first four appearances.

Ko has a one-shot lead over 2009 winner Eun Hee Ji and second-round leader Sung Hyun Park.

"I'm going to just try and enjoy it, just focus on the shot I have in front of me and not think about what everybody else is doing," Ko said. "If I think that way, I won't get too carried away with what position I am at certain parts of the final day."

Ko's week got off to a somewhat shaky start when she was tied for 52nd after 73 in the first round in the difficult afternoon conditions.

But Ko got into contention with 66 in the second round then took sole possession of the lead on the final hole Saturday. Her approach shot spun back about 9 feet from the hole. She calmly sank the putt then threw her ball into the stands in celebration.

Ji has broken par all three rounds with 69 and 71 in the first two rounds followed by 70.

Park, playing her first U.S. Open and second major ever, got off to a solid start with birdies on the sixth and eighth holes to move to 9 under. But fortunes quickly changed at the par-5 ninth when she hit her tee shot into a hazard for a penalty and ended up with double bogey. She finished with 74.

CHAMPIONS: John Riegger wasn't sure he'd be able to play the second round of the Dick's Sporting Goods Open in Endicott, N.Y., because of a case of shingles. The pain subsided long enough for him to show his first round wasn't a fluke.

Riegger followed his 66 with 5-under 67 and is tied with Paul Goydos (66) for the lead at 11-under 133.

"It's kind of gone away, but the pain is still there and it's just an after-effect of the attacks of the nerves," Riegger said after his second straight bogey-free round. "I think it's just the fact that I've gotten used to it and dealing with it a little bit better. I know that nothing's going to happen to me."

First-round leader Scott Dunlap (70) was third at 10 under.

BRITISH OPEN: Brooks Koepka, the world's 16th-ranked player from the United States, withdrew from next week's event. No reason was given, though Koepka pulled out of the Bridgestone Invitational last week with an ankle injury. Daniel Berger, a teammate of Koepka's at Florida State, also withdrew due to a shoulder injury.

OLYMPICS: U.S. Open champ Dustin Johnson, the world's No. 2 player, withdrew from the Rio Games because of concerns over the Zika virus.

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