Major champion Hannah Green has notched her first sub-par round of the week in Evian to be the leading Australian with 18 holes to play.
The West Australian’s Saturday 69 was far from routine, Green making just two back nine pars for the second day running.
But after finding 11 of 13 fairways and 14 greens in regulation, the 22-year-old is slowly getting dialled in after a month off tour.
Green and Queensland’s Katherine Kirk will battle it out tomorrow for the honour of top Australian at women;s golf's second richest major, both women currently at even-par through 54 holes.
Young gun Su Oh is one stroke further back after an even-par-71 of her own, while Sarah Kemp’s 78 has seen her slip back to the tail of the field.
At the top of the standings it’s all Korea.
Hyo Joo Kim’s 65 was one better than World No.1 Sung Hyun Park’s third round effort, Kim soaring to 15-under for the week and one clear of her countrywoman.
2018 Women’s Australian Open champ JY Ko holds down outright third at 11-under after a 66 of her own, joined at that mark by Inbee Park.
Green’s reign as women’s golf’s latest major champion is all-but over, but the World No.25’s third round is another step forward in regaining the form that saw her win at Hazeltine.
After teeing off 10, Green made a trio of birdies from the 14th onwards, including a near ace on 16 (for the second straight day) that settled barely a foot from the cup.
“I was planning on hitting it 20 feet right but pulled it,” Green said. “Luckily I had the right club. It was a closer than I thought it was walking up there.”
She handed that stroke back immediately with a bogey on 17, before a birdie on 18 preceded a double at the 1st.
But a seventh birdie of the day at the par-3 8th provided solid reinforcement that Green is trending in the right direction.
“I hit it a lot better today, a lot more greens. Nearly double the greens I was hitting the first two days,” Green said.
“It’s definitely getting better every day, slowly, which is good. It’s better than no progress, I guess.
“I certainly feel more comfortable and back in tournament mode.”
It was another consistent ball-striking performance from three-time LPGA Tour winner Kirk on Saturday but the Queenslander only had a 1-over-71 to show for it.
An inch of rain that soaked Evian Resort stretched the course out even for the longer of the hitters in the field but Kirk looked in control for the majority of her round.
After nine straight pars Kirk was 1-under for the day, before a double-bogey at four and a bogey at five halted her momentum.
Statistically, the 434m par-4 4th has been the course’s hardest hole this week.
But Kirk took advantage of the par-5 7th on the way back to the clubhouse, notching a third birdie of the day to keep touch with the top 40 on the standings.
“I just butchered the second shot into four and made a mess of it from there” Kirk said.
“It was disappointing to make a double but it can happen out here pretty easily. I was happy to birdie seven and hang in there. You’re going to make mistakes out there.”
One thing Kirk has done brilliantly this week is avoiding mistakes with the flatstick. She’s yet to record a three-putt through 54 holes and on Saturday, she missed just twice off the tee.
“I only missed two fairways all day so I struck it pretty well off the tee,” Kirk said.
“It played a lot softer and longer so I had a couple of longer clubs in which probably made it a bit harder to score.
“I won’t change anything for tomorrow, just give myself 18 chances at birdie and hope the putter cooperates.”
Su Oh experienced a similarly frustrating day, the Victorian settling for an even-par 71 to be 1-over for the tournament.
The World No.84 has grown in confidence as the week has progressed but Oh could only muster two birdies on Saturday.
Oh’s second birdie came on her last hole of the day, the par-5 9th, after she conceded a stroke with a bogey on the 8th.
“I thought I played better than I scored today,” Oh said.
“Monday when I got here I hit the ball so bad, I was so worried. So I feel like I’m hitting it better every day.
“Some of the holes feel tighter than they actually are and the rough is so thick so it’s so penalising when you’re just off the fairway.”
While her countrywomen found a way to tread water on Saturday, the going was a little tougher for Sarah Kemp.
A 7-over-78 third round came out of the blue for the Sydneysider, Kemp recording seven bogeys on a day where she could only find nine of 18 greens in regulation.
Sunday’s tee times have been pushed back to 10am local time (6pm AEST) due to forecasted rain overnight.