Hannah Green has a one-stroke lead going into the final round of the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship and fresh evidence that going after her first LPGA Tour victory at a major won’t be easy.
Green three-putted for bogey on the 18th hole at Hazeltine National in Chaska, Minn., for a two-under-par 70, leaving her one shot clear of two-time major champion Ariya Jutanugarn, who had a 68.
Green, who was at nine-under 207 for her first 54-hole lead in an LPGA Tour event, had reason to feel the lead could have been larger.
She and Jutanugarn, who separated from the field, matched scores on seven consecutive holes until the par-four 16th, where the tees were moved up to entice players to try to drive the green.
Jutanugarn went right, bounced off the side of a hill and into the water. She pitched weakly to about 18 feet and took two putts for a bogey. Green played short off the tee and hit wedge into six feet for a birdie attempt that would have given her a four-shot lead.
But the putt spun around the cup for the 22-year-old Australian, giving her a par for a three-shot lead.
Jutanugarn followed with a 15-foot birdie putt on the par-three 17th hole to restore the margin to two shots, and then Green missed her tee shot to the right into the rough on 18, hit onto the front of the green and three-putted for bogey from long range.
Just like that, the lead was down to one stroke.
Green, a three-time winner on the Symetra Tour in 2017, is in her second full year on the LPGA Tour. Jutanugarn, a 23-year-old Thai and among the most powerful players in the game, already has 10 victories and two majors.
They also might have some company.
Green and Jutanugarn both said the front nine felt like match play, with no one else closer than five shots. By the end of the round, it was a little bit tighter.
Lizette Salas (68) and Nelly Korda (69) were four shots behind at five-under 211. Another shot back was Sei Young Kim, who had the low score of the round at 67, and defending champion Sung Hyun Park (71).
Still in the game was Inbee Park (69) at six shots behind. Park won the last LPGA major in Minnesota at Interlachen for the 2008 U.S. Women’s Open, her first major in a Hall of Fame career.
Jutanugarn powers tee shots with her two-iron and three-wood, often some 20 yards past Green’s driver. But the Australian was cool as can be with putts, matching birdies with Jutanugarn on the par-three fourth hole and making a 40-foot putt for birdie on the fifth.
Jutanugarn hit a three-wood off the tee and a five-iron to back collar of the green on the par-five seventh, while Green laid up from a reasonable lie in the rough and hit a wedge to 10 feet to match birdies.
Even so, Green wasn’t happy with how the putts dropped — they died in the hole instead of going in with pace — and she fears it cost her at the end with her long three-putt bogey.
“Overall, I have to be happy, playing with Ariya for the first time and trying to keep up with her,” Green said.
She only felt the nerves when she had time to think, such as the long wait on the 15th and 16th tees. And when she missed the putts on the 16th and 18th holes, she wondered if it was nerves creeping in.
Green is staying this week with Karrie Webb, Australia’s most prolific major champion. Webb missed the cut but has stayed around with two amateurs who won her scholarship program, and she has been telling Green to embrace the moment.
It figures to be a slow round Sunday. Overnight rain was in the forecast, so the final round will be played in threesomes off both tees instead of twosomes starting before 7 a.m. Central time, when the rain was still likely.
Reavie is ahead by six in Travelers
Chez Reavie shot a seven-under 63 and took advantage of second-round leader Zach Sucher’s problems to take a six-stroke lead into the final round of the Travelers Championship in Cromwell, Conn.
Coming off a third-place tie last week in the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach, the 37-year-old Reavie was six shots behind Sucher at the turn, then matched the tournament record with a back-nine 28.
The 2008 Canadian Open winner for his lone PGA Tour title, Reavie had a 16-under 194 total at TPC River Highlands. He birdied Nos. 10-13, 15 and 17-18 in his back-nine spree.
Sucher had a 71 to drop into a tie for second with Keegan Bradley (69) at 10 under. Sucher dropped five strokes on the first three holes on the back nine, making a bogey on 10 and double bogeys on 11 and 12.
Flesch takes PGA Tour Champions lead
Steve Flesch birdied the final three holes for a seven-under 65 and the second-round lead in the American Family Insurance Championship in Madison, Wis., with tournament host Steve Stricker a stroke back in his hometown tournament.
Flesch, 52, played the back nine at University Ridge in five-under 31 to reach 11-under 133. He won the 2018 Mitsubishi Electric Classic for his only PGA Tour Champions title after winning four times on the PGA Tour.
Stricker eagled the par-five 16th in a 67. Billy Andrade (66) and Duffy Waldorf (67) also were 10 under. First-round leader Jerry Kelly, also from Madison, shot a 70 to drop into a tie for fifth at nine under with Retief Goosen (66) and Tom Pernice (67).
John Daly was four strokes back at seven under after a 69, and defending champion Scott McCarron had a 67 to get to six under.
Hall of Fame pitcher John Smoltz was last in the 78-man field at 10 over after rounds of 76 and 78. Making his third tour start, the former Atlanta Braves star got into the field on a sponsor exemption.