BETHESDA, Md. (AP) – This was the moment the rest of the field needed: in Gee Chun standing by the trees, pondering her situation, and finally returning to the point of her previous shot.
A shaky third round cut her lead in the women’s PGA Championship in half.
Chun shot a 3-over 75 on Saturday, leading her into the final round of Congressional Country Club three-strokes ahead. One day when the leaders had a lot of trouble, Chun held her up until she made it a double bogey on the par-5 16th hole.
“I’m already looking forward to an exciting final round,” she said. “If it’s too easy, I think it’s boring.”
It looked like the final lap could be dull – or at least anticlimactic – as Chun held a comfortable lead for much of Saturday. She bogeyed at numbers 1 and 11, but birdied at 2 and 12. Her lead was five when she had to play her third shot from tall grass at the 564 yard 16th.
That shot got her into even more trouble, in an area with tall grass and some trees. She took an unplayable lie and went back to the previous spot to punch again.
From there, an 8 iron went down the green, but Chun was able to bounce up and down for a 7. The two-time major champion from South Korea led with five shots after the first round and six halfway through. After the third round, she had a total of 8 under 208.
Lydia Ko (76) and Jennifer Kupcho (74) – Chun’s playing partners – had their own issues, but Lexi Thompson and Hye-Jin Choi both shot 70 and came in second with Sei Young Kim (71) at 5 under.
Thompson will play in the latter group as she tries for her first major win since 2014.
“You always want to be in the last group in any tournament,” she said. “I love that the hard work has paid off. I put time into it, so to see it pay off and pay dividends means the world to me.”
Ko couldn’t take advantage of Chun’s struggle. She bogeyed four of the five holes in one piece on the front nine, then made four birdies on the next seven. She finished the round with four straight bogeys.
Kupcho had three birdies and three bogeys in the first seven holes and was unable to gain much ground from the leader.
Kim, who won this event two years ago, had a relatively drama-free round with two birdies and a bogey. Choi shot 34 on the back nine while playing in a group with Thompson. They will be together again on Sunday.
“It was my first time playing with her, and I really saw her as a fan when I was an amateur,” said Choi. “It was a good experience to play with her. Of course I tried to focus on my game.”
Thompson made three birdies in the back nine, including a putt of about 30 feet at No. 15. She has 11 LPGA Tour wins, but none since 2019. She has made her way into the fray after a first round of 74.
Thompson finished second in Crown Colony in February and in Upper Montclair last month.
“I know I’m in good shape with my game and just my mental state, so I’m going out tomorrow to enjoy the walk with my caddy and hopefully a lot of fans who support us,” she said. “Whatever score I shoot, I shoot.”
Hannah Green (72) was fifth at 4 under, one stroke ahead of Atthaya Thitikul (68), who was so far behind at the start of the day that she was in one of the groups sent off at number 10. Brooke Henderson (73 ), Kupcho and Jennifer Chang (73) finished sixth with Thitikul.
COMMENTS: US Women’s Open champion Minjee Lee (73) was 2 under. … Defending champion Nelly Korda (72) finished 29th.
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