LYTHAM ST ANNES, ENGLAND - Mamiko Higa shot a 1-under 71 Saturday and dropped two notches to fourth place, but kept alive her hopes of becoming the second Japanese player to win a major title after three rounds at the Women’s British Open.
Higa, who finished seventh in her British Open debut in 2013 as a 19-year-old, is one of three players at 10-under and will begin the final round at Royal Lytham & St Annes Golf Club three shots behind leader Pornanong Phatlum of Thailand.
Phatlum retained her overnight lead with a 3-under 69, moving to 13-under overall.
Phatlum’s playing partner Georgia Hall of England is one shot off the lead and South Korea’s Ryu So-yeon is one shot behind Hall.
“I made more mistakes than I did in the first two days,” said Higa, who carded three birdies and two bogeys.
“But finishing with an under-par score proves I’ve become better than I used to be. I’ve come this far, so all I do now is put on my best play,” she said.
Should Higa win the tournament, she will become only the second Japanese to capture a major. Hisako Higuchi, winner of the LPGA Championship in 1977, remains the only Japanese player to win a major championship on either the PGA or LPGA Tours.
The leaders are also chasing history.
Phatlum is trying to become the second Thai female to win a major championship after Ariya Jutanugarn in 2016. Hall would be the first Englishwomen to win the Open in 14 years.
Hideki Matsuyama and Isao Aoki’s runner-up finishes at the U.S. Open last year and in 1980, respectively, are the closest a Japanese male golfer has gotten to a major title.
Phatlum has been singing Thai songs in her head to calm herself on a links course she admits to struggling on. Though any struggling hasn’t been apparent, yet.
She birdied the third, sixth, eighth, and 11th holes, and dropped her first shot of the major on the par-3 12th, a bogey.
“Singing in my head makes me come down more, not get too nervous,” she said.
While Pornanong will be singing to herself in the final round, Hall will be counting on experience. She was in the final group in the Open last year, and finished in a tie for third.
“It was great to get so much support, I haven’t really had that before because I play in America quite a bit,” Hall said. “There were so many people behind me that I feel that was the reason I had good shots.”
Ryu, who has three top-10 British Open finishes climbed up the leaderboard with a run of six birdies from the fifth to the 12th.
“Winning this tournament has always been my goal for the year,” Ryu said. “I’m in a pretty good position.”
Two-time major champion Park Sung-hyun (69) was a further shot back with Mamiko Higa (71) and Minjee Lee (71).