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Australians still in hunt at Pinehurst

(Photo: USGA)
Korean Amy Yang and American Michelle Wie, two of the most precocious talents in the female game during their teenage years, will take a share of the 54 hole lead into tomorrow's final round of the US Women's Open in at Pinehurst No 2.

The pair are four shots clear of an eclectic mix of four players, Juli Inkster, Stephanie Meadow, Na Yeon Choi and Australia's leading world amateur Minjee Lee.

Yang who had been earmarked as a future major winner when successful at the Australian Ladies Masters as a 16 year old amateur in 2006 now has the chance, after being runner-up in this very event, in 2012, to breakthrough for her first victory at this level after nine top tens in major championships until now.

Yang spent two years in Australia during her high school years where she attended Robina High School on the Gold Coast. During that time she won the New Zealand Amateur Championship amongst other titles.

The winner of two European Tour and one LPGA Tour events previously, Yang produced a round of 68 today to catch Wie who appeared to be heading for a comfortable 54 hole lead when she moved four clear of the field through 10 holes of round three. Then came a double bogey at the 11th after finding trouble from the tee and with further bogeys at the 12th and 14th she actually fell behind Yang at that point.

24 year old Yang hit a very poor iron to the final hole coming up short and when she was unable to hole a 12 foot par saving putt she and Wie were tied at 2 under.

Wie had a chance at the last to take the lead into the final round but she missed a very makeable birdie chance and tomorrow the pair set sail on a quest to claim their first major titles.

When asked how her previous good finishes at the US Open might help her tomorrow Yang responsed, "Still working on it, but I'm much better at controlling my emotion and controlling the nervous feeling. I think it's going to be a fun round. I'm also good friends with Michelle, so I think it's going to be a good round."

Wie has been in outstanding form this year and is now at a level that many felt she would be five years earlier. Her career has been one of mixed fortunes to date, many of those self imposed but her talent is undeniable and given the power game she possesses her current standing in the event is understandable.

Perhaps disappointed with some aspects of her round Wie is still excited about what lies ahead. "Well, I'm going to try to sleep as much as I can. But, yeah I'm excited. I'm just so grateful for the opportunity that I have, just to have a chance to. I feel like I'm in a really great spot. So, yeah, I'm just really happy. I'm excited for tomorrow.

"'I love being in contention, I love feeling nervous on the first tee, I love that whole -- every shot really counts, whether you miss it or make it. I'm just -- I just love it. I love the feeling the nerves. That just means I really want it. It's fun. It's exactly why I started playing golf is to have these opportunities and I'm just really grateful for another one."

Wie enthused over the Pinehurst layout which she had not played previously. "I never played Pinehurst before, I never played it before they changed it, so I really didn't have any expectations of what was going to happen. It's a great golf course.

"Every time I look on to the tee or have a moment to look back from the green, I just think to myself how awesome it is. It's a really great golf course. It's a tough challenge. You've got to hit good shots, but it's a fun golf course. It's really exciting that I got to watch the guys play on Sunday. It's really cool just to see the whole circle of everything. So, yeah, I'm having a lot of fun."

53 year old Inkster produced the best round of the week when her four under par 66 moved her from well back in the field to share 3rd.

"It's great," said Inkster. "I'm going to be right in the mix. I don't know how they'll finish (referring to those still on the golf course). They've got a lot of holes left.

"Let's just say I'm in a lot better shape today than I was yesterday. 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."

Lee was aware that she is not yet at her best but she has found a way to produce some great golf and feels there is still some upside in her game. "I don't think I drove it how I really wanted to today. I was kind of spraying it a bit. But I recovered quite well some of the holes. Yeah, happy with that. Yeah, I think there's always room for improvement."

Lee is the current Australian Amateur Champion, an event she has won in the last two years, and is set to turn professional later this year. She is a former US Junior Champion and earlier this year finished runner-up to Cheyenne Woods at the Ladies European Tour's Australian Ladies Masters. She might be new to this level but she has already proven she has the game to remain in the mix tomorrow.

Na Yeon Choi is a former winner of this event and Stephanie Meadow is a young Northern Irish golfer, who has spent some time in the US at College and who possesses an outstanding golf swing and is clearly going places.

Karrie Webb is in a share of 7th position and while five shots from the lead the wily major campaigner knows she is not yet out of contention thanks in some respects to Michelle Wie coming back to the field in the latter half of her round.

"I'll take it, because I didn't hit my irons very good today," said Webb. "I really scrambled quite well. To shoot even par, I'm pretty happy with that. I think the course, obviously there were some low scores out there today. I think the course was set up to do that if you played well. And I was happy to still have a chance tomorrow. Michelle Wie has put a few of us back into the tournament."

Bruce Young
About The Author : Bruce Young

A multi-award winning golf journalist, Bruce's extensive knowledge of and background in the game of golf comes from several years caddying the tournament circuits of the world, marketing a successful golf course design company and as one of Australia's leading golf journalists and commentators.

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