BEDMINSTER _ Shanshan Feng is not one bit concerned with leaderboards.
Feng, of China, like all golfers competing in the U.S. Open over the last few days at Trump National Golf Course, has plenty of opportunities to peek at the standings as she moves from hole to hole. She doesn't, however. Feng, the leader at 207 - 9-under after three rounds - just keeps driving, chipping and putting, oblivious to the posted scores.
“I just want to know about my score and I don’t care about the others,” she said. “I’m just competing with myself. I’ll focus on my own game and let’s see what happens.”
That unwillingness to peek has served Feng, hoping to become the first start-to-finish winner, with no ties, since Hollis Stacy in 1977, very well. She is playing exceptional golf. Over her first 54 holes, Feng carded only one bogey - on No. 10 in the second round. Her third round concluded with a three-foot putt birdie.
Right behind Feng are Hye-Jin Choi, a 17-year-old amateur, and Amy Yang, both at 208. Sung Hyun Park is in fourth at 210. American Cristie Kerr shot a 70 in the third round and has a total of 212 and is sharing eighth place with Spain's Carlota Ciganda. The lone New Jersey player, Marina Alex of Wayne, is in a four-way tie for 14th after recording a 73.
Feng said she felt a "little bit pressure" from being in the lead. When she captured her other major, the Wegman's LPGA Championship, in 2012, she came from behind and prevailed.
"I did pretty well under the pressure and then I started to hit the ball better, closer to the hole, so I had some birdie chances," she said. "Putting didn't really work today. I just couldn't get the line and the speed together. And then, I was like OK, let's go to Plan B."
Plan B entails putting the ball closer to the hole so she doesn't have to attempt lengthy putts. Feng, the bronze medalist at the Rio Olympics, also has a Plan C and that's "when I can't even make shots and try to hit them into the hole."
Should Feng wrap up the title on Sunday, July 16, she'd be the first player from China to win the U.S. Women’s Open. China's Alice “Fumie” Jo was victorious at the 2014 U.S. Women’s Amateur Public Links.
Yang, of Korea, has come close to claiming the U.S. Open in recent years. She's been in the top three a trio of times in the last six years.
"I feel like I'm doing good, you know," said Yang, who vowed to be patient. " I made a lot of solid shots out there, gave myself a lot of opportunities and I saved really good pars out there. I'm looking forward to playing tomorrow."
Choi’s 208 is the lowest three-round total by an amateur in U.S. Women’s Open history. A victory by Choi will make her the second amateur to garner top honors at the U.S. Women’s Open. Catherine LaCoste was the first, winning the 1967 championship.
Alex endured a rocky start on Saturday, parring her first two holes before getting a double bogey and three putting for a bogey. She briefly righted herself, parring the fifth hole, then another double bogey ensued.
"It was a little crazy," Alex said. "I got off to a pretty poor start. I guess I was just nervous, to be honest. I don't know. It just all kind of hit me."
Birdies on the eighth and ninth holes put her back on track. Her second nine was steady as she had seven pars and two birdies.
"You don't realize how hard the holes can be when you are hitting it good and you are hitting the greens and everything feels great," Alex said. "You are grooving and then, when you're not, some of those are really, really difficult. There are a lot of hazards on the front nine. Most of the time, you don't notice them but then when you stray mentally, a lot of things creep into play, things you never really think about. I had to try and settle myself down and get restarted."
Feng, though, has yet to hit a rough patch.
"Well, I think I have been doing well this week," Feng said. "Coming to this week, I didn't have any expectation at all. I just wanted to bring out my 'A' game. And then I think I did really well for the first three days and I'm going to stick to my game plan tomorrow. I just focus on my own game and let's see what happens."
***Marina Alex photos below***
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