(Reuters) – Australian Hannah Green had her lead whittled down to one stroke as Ariya Jutanugarn applied the heat in the third round of the Women’s PGA Championship in Minnesota on Saturday.
A three-putt bogey at the final hole for a two-under-par 70 left Green with a slender advantage with one round left at Hazeltine National in Chaska.
She posted a nine-under 207 total, while Ariya compiled a 68 to go to eight-under.
The former world number one from Thailand had been three shots behind after 16 holes but a birdie at the 17th, coupled with Green’s blemish at the last, reduced what had been a comfortable advantage for the Australian.
Americans Nelly Korda (69) and Lizette Salas (68) are equal third, four shots from the lead.
Green, in search of her first LPGA victory in her second season on tour, could become the third wire-to-wire winner of the championship.
She did not drive the ball well, but was in fine form with her irons and still hit 17 greens in regulation.
“Pretty disappointing to end with a three-putt. That’s my first one all week,” said the 22-year-old from Perth.
“I was kind of was struggling with my pace a little bit coming down the stretch, leaving some putts short in the heart.”
Green acknowledged that Sunday would be a big day in her career, though nerves did not bother her too much on Saturday.
“Surprisingly I wasn’t nervous on the first tee,” she said, adding that Ariya had been the perfect playing partner.
“I wasn’t really sure whether she would be a person that likes to talk on the golf course in between and she was lovely. She was asking me questions about things back Australia and vice versa.
“I think talking to her in between shots really calmed my nerves as well just to feel like she wasn’t as intimidating as her record would show.
“It’s my first time in this position so I feel like I will be a little bit nervous come tomorrow. I think I need to just slow things down and take my time and make sure I’m not rushing into any shots.”
Ariya, who has 10 LPGA victories, including two majors, the 2018 U.S. Women’s Open and the 2016 Women’s British Open, was happy with her form at the tournament so far.
“The last three days I’m really happy about how I play because I feel so free,” she said.
“I’m not thinking about outcome. I feel I have my own game.
“I want to have good commitment, fight and keep doing that until the last hole and I did (that on) every shot today.”
(Reporting by Andrew Both in Cary, North Carolina; Editing by Peter Rutherford)