TURNBERRY, Scotland – There’s a Ko atop the leaderboard after three rounds of the Women’s British Open.
Just not the one many were expecting.
Jin-Young Ko, a 20-year-old South Korean with no links experience and playing in her first major championship, shot a 3-under 69 on Saturday to share the lead with Taiwan’s Teresa Lu heading into the final round at Turnberry. They have an 8-under total of 208.
Ko’s story is all the more remarkable considering she met her temporary caddie for the week – a locally born, 27-year-old digital advertiser called Jeff Brighton – for the first time on Tuesday. She said she is taking advice from Brighton on every stroke, and hasn’t been adapting her usual game for the links despite the wind and rain that has lashed the Ailsa course.
“I give her a number and a line and she just hits it,” Brighton said after the round. “We’re working well. She trusts my numbers.”
Lydia Ko, the No. 2-ranked golfer looking to become the youngest winner of a major at 18, started the third round in a four-way tie for second place, alongside her namesake on 5 under.
The New Zealander recovered from a double-bogey at No. 1 to shoot a 72 and was three strokes off the lead, with top-ranked Inbee Park (69) and Minjee Lee (70).
Park, who has been acting as a mentor for Jin-Young Ko in her compatriot’s start to her career, is bidding to complete a career Grand Slam.
“Having somewhat of a chance on the last day is just a great opportunity,” said Park, who would be the sixth woman to sweep the majors. “You just keep cracking and someday it’s going to crack.”
Second-round leader Suzann Pettersen was a stroke off the lead after shooting 72 on another day of changeable weather in western Scotland. Mika Miyazato of Japan shot 70 to lie on her own in fourth place.
Jin-Young Ko took the lead outright for the first time when she birdied No. 6 and went two shots clear after another birdie on No. 7. She lost the lead when she bogeyed No. 16 after missing the green with her approach from the middle of the fairway, the only poor shot in her round.
Both Ko and Lu birdied No. 17 and parred No. 18.
“I feel nothing, not even nervous or anything,” said Ko, who has won four events on the Korean tour and played only one event on the U.S. LPGA Tour, in South Korea, where she finished tied for 42nd at the 2014 KEB HanaBank Championship.
Asked if it will be a life-changing experience to be a major champion, the 28th-ranked Ko replied: “If I won, my life will be the same.”
Ko is playing in Scotland for the first time and has been shocked by the weather conditions. She said she has never played in such high winds.
“There are many different seasons in one day – sun, rain, wind,” she said, laughing.
The 30th-ranked Lu shot 69, too, and was also chasing a first major title. She rolled a birdie putt just wide on the 18th hole that would have given her the outright lead.
“I have to try to stay relaxed,” Lu said, “because it’s going to be a tough day tomorrow.”
Rain is forecast all Sunday.
Park has seven come-from-behind victories, including two in major championships – at the 2008 U.S. Women’s Open and 2014 Women’s PGA Championship.
“Three back is not that bad,” Park said.
Alena Sharp shoots a third-round 77 while Brooke Henderson signed for a 79.