By Jeremy Harness
AP photo: Haru Nomura follows her drive from the second tee in the third round of the Swinging Skirts on Saturday at Lake Merced Golf Club in Daly City
DALY CITY – Haru Nomura extended her lead on Saturday, but there are some familiar faces still hanging around just enough to make things interesting.
Since taking over the lead on Friday, Nomura has seemed to have a stranglehold on this edition of the Swinging Skirts LPGA Classic. She has stayed away from the big mistake, and when faced with trouble, she has found a way to get past it and keep moving forward.
In Saturday’s third-round action, for example, she looked to be stymied by a low-hanging tree for her third shot at the par-five ninth. However, she hit a very nice low-flying shot that made its way onto the green and was then able to make the ensuing birdie putt.
She used shots like that, including a sand save on the back nine despite a very-awkward stance, to tack on a stroke to her lead, using three birdies to overcome a pair of bogeys and enter the final round with a three-stroke advantage.
One of her closest chasers is South Africa’s Lee-Anne Pace, who fired a three-under 69 to move into a tie for second. She herself had to fight off a pair of bogeys on the front nine by recording a trio of birdies. She then proceeded to play a bogey-free back nine, which was highlighted by two more birdies.
Her round was almost derailed from the beginning, however. As the story goes, Pace’s caddie lost one of his contacts Saturday morning, and despite having to jump through some hoops in the process, he was able to get a new pair just in time.
“In America, apparently you can’t just get it over-the-counter,” Pace said. “So he has a prescription from South Africa, but they didn’t accept it. So he had to go to the doctor and get the contacts.
“It’s quite a big deal, especially on the greens.”
As she did in last year’s tournament, 18-year-old Canadian Brooke Henderson has continued to charge her way up the leaderboard. She chipped in for birdie at the 18th hole on Saturday to finish with a three-under 69 to head into Sunday’s final round (tied for fourth and five strokes back).
Another thing that Henderson has going for her these days is a solid playing status. At this point last year, the only two ways that she could play was to either get a sponsor’s exemption or to get in via Monday qualifier.
That has since changed, as her victory in last season’s Cambia Portland Classic – she won by eight strokes – landed her full playing status on the LPGA Tour.
“I’m really close, and my game is close to being really good,” Henderson said. “I just have to stay patient and keep doing what I’m doing.
“I made some really good up-and-downs to kind of save my round and keep me going, which I think was really important. My short game was really good all day, and even on 18, chipping in was really helpful.”
So Yeon Ryu, on the other hand, is going the other way. After taking the initial lead in this tournament after posting an opening-round score of 63, which set the tournament course record, the South Korea native has slightly retreated since then. She followed a three-over 75 on Friday and then dropping a shot on Saturday, and she, like Henderson, is currently tied for fourth.
Also as the case with Henderson, Ryu finished her round on a high note. Ryu did not chip in, but she did hit a very nice approach shot to about three feet, a putt that she made for birdie for a one-over 73.
In a similar predicament is defending champ Lydia Ko, who turns 19 Sunday. She finds herself six strokes off of the lead after shooting a one-over 73 on Saturday, making a pair of birdies but was hampered by three bogeys.
“My game wasn’t really up to it today,” Ko said. “It was pretty average. But I felt like chipping, short game-wise, it was good, but I wasn’t making the putts the needed to go in for birdie or those crucial par saves, so I think that was the difference.”