A round of 2 over par 74 has seen Kirk slip from her overnight second place to a share of 5th and, now five shots from the lead, she will need a good round tomorrow and a little help from those ahead if she is to have any hope of a first major title.
Two late bogeys by Kirk in today's round could prove very costly in her quest for that major breakthrough but she at least has a chance in tomorrow’s showdown.
Kirk began the day three behind the leader, In Kyung Kim, a bogey at her very first hole not the start she was hoping for but she was still well enough placed before bogeys at the 15th and 16th saw her finish five behind the brilliant Korean Jin Young Ko and four behind Kim.
Mi Hyang Lee and Danielle Kang are at 5 under and three from the lead, Kirk next best along with Alena Sharp and Korean Jeongeun Lee.
Kirk’s previous best in a major championship was when runner-up at the 2010 Women’s British Open but in more than 50 starts at the elite level she has recorded just four top tens so tomorrow she has a chance to add significantly to that record.
Her previous best in this particular event in eleven appearances was when 8th in 2009 and with only one other top twenty at Mission Hills this week’s effort to date reflects a much-improved game and perhaps mindset in recent weeks.
The 54 hole leader Ko is in outstanding form at present having won the Founders Cup two weeks ago and been twice runner-up and once 3rd in four other LPGA starts this season.
Tomorrow Ko has the chance to win her first major title but that chance might have been so much better but for a blunder on her 14th and 15th holes today where she dropped three shots, finding the water at the 14th.
A run of six birdies in her first 10 holes today swept her to the lead, in fact she had turned the tables on Kim by nine shots in that time although she opened the door for several as a result of her struggles in the middle of her final nine.
Kim has a score to settle with his event having missed a tiny putt to win the title in 2012 (see video below) and although she struggled early today she finished strongly to keep the door open to atone for her gut-wrenching stumble seven years ago.
Given Ko’s current form, however, she remains the woman to beat tomorrow and if she was to go on and win the 2018 Women’s Australian Open Champion might well build on her first major victory with many more to follow.
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