Su Oh took a giant stride today to keep her Olympic medal hopes alive, then dared to dream – of all people – of Matt Kuchar.
Kuchar came from the clouds with a closing 63 in the men’s competition last weekend to snare bronze.
And after a day of savage winds and with more testing weather forecast tomorrow, the Victorian let her mind wander after starting her third round from 38th place.
Oh, 20, canned seven birdies – including six in an epic front nine – to card a spectacular five-under-par 66 to surge 30 places through the field.
The Victorian will start tonight’s final round at four under, seven behind Korean leader Inbee Park, but suddenly only five shots out of second place.
West Australian Minjee Lee is also still in medal contention despite a 73 that left her alongside Oh in a tie for eighth.
“Hopefully I can do a Matt Kuchar tomorrow,” Oh beamed after finally finding the range with her putter, including just 10 uses of the flat stick on her outward nine.
“The back nine was so much tougher than the front nine. Once I was five under after the front nine, I thought let’s get a couple more, but then playing it, I was like, `Nah. Just hit it on the green and take two putts’. I got one (a birdie) on the last, so that was good.
“But it was really hard out there – I backed away so many times because a gust of wind hit – making pars and moving up, it was kinda nice.
“I’m definitely looking forward to it – hopefully get another steak dinner tonight, they’ve been great.”
Regardless of her finish, Lee, 20, will look back at 30 calamitous minutes today when she went bogey-triple-bogey from holes 2-4, including twice dunking her ball on the par-four third en route to a seven that likely ended her golden aspirations.
“I thought, `Oh man, I stuffed up bad’. But it happens. I can’t take it back now,” the West Australian said.
“I felt good over the shot both times, pretty confident over the ball, but it didn’t go as I’d planned, obviously.
“But I fought back a little bit. I went birdie-birdie after it, but I had to, really.
“I felt like I saved a lot of shots on the back nine. It was OK.
“I can’t say I played good, but I can’t say I played bad. It was just a grind.
“I’ll give it my best shot (in the final round), just go out there and try to make as many birdies as I can.”
Park, a seven-time major winner, looked set to blow away the field when she charged to 13 under with her third birdie of the day at the fifth.
But the gusting wind and a couple of errant drives limited her to a 70 and a two-shot buffer over the talk of the third round, New Zealander Lydia Ko.
Ko (65) was the only player to better Oh’s score, piling up four birdies to go alongside her stunning ace – the first of her career – on the eighth to shoot 65 to rise to nine under overall.
“I didn’t really expect it to go in, but when it finally dropped, I thought I was going to cry, almost cry from happiness,” Ko said of her one.
Remarkably it wasn’t the only hole-in-one of an eventful round with China’s Lin Xiyu hitting the jackpot on the same hole minutes beforehand.
But it was good enough for world No.1 Ko to push all the way from 22nd at midway to the last group out in the final round.
She’ll be joined there by Park and American Gerina Piller, who briefly shared the lead at 10 under before she bogeyed the last and the Korean birdied the 16th and 17th.
Only sand trouble up the last prevented LPGA Tour hall-of-famer Park from reinstating her largest lead.
“(The pressure) is a final round of a major championship every day,” Park said.
“It was a struggle out there in the wind, but I feel like I battled well.”
So hard was the back nine that second-round powerhouses Charley Hull (-7), Brooke Henderson (-4), Stacy Lewis (-4) and Marianne Skarpnord (-3) played the back nine in a combined 15 over par.
Round 3 leaderboard: http://www.igfgolf.org/olympic-games/scores/womens/