Date: June 29, 2008

Hull, Webb a long way off

Aussie duo Katherine Hull and Karrie Webb are 11 and 12 strokes adrift of leader Stacy Lewis respectively at the United States Women&aposs Open and are well out of contention after three rounds. Hull is two-over par overall and in a share of 31st position after posting a forgettable four-over-par round of 77 while Webb is a shot further back in equal 36th despite recording her first sub-par round (one-under 72) for the tournament. Lewis fired an impressive bogey-free third round six-under-par 67 in testing conditions at the Interlachen Country Club on Sunday to open up a one-stroke lead over Paula Creamer at the United States Women&aposs Open. Lewis, playing in her first tournament as a professional after leaving the amateur ranks less than three weeks ago, moved onto nine-under-par overall after playing with a maturity and assurance way beyond her 23 years. Creamer remained in the hunt with a four-under-par 69, with Swede Helen Alfredsson (71) and Korean Inbee Park (71) two shots off the pace heading into the final round. “Truthfully, I&aposm not really that surprised,” said Lewis, who only four weeks ago led the American amateur team to victory over Great Britain and Ireland in the Curtis Cup at St Andrews. “I felt I could play and compete at this level.” “I finished fifth at the Kraft Nabisco Championship last year and that really showed me I could play at this level.” Lewis has endured a long and painful road to the professional game after she was diagnosed with scoliosis, a curvature of the spine, when she was 11 and had to wear a hard plastic brace 18 hours a day for the next seven years. However, that did not correct her problem, so at 18 she had major surgery with a rod and five screws inserted into her back. “It was very serious,” she said. “When I found out I had to have surgery, I thought I was done playing golf forever. I was crying, because I just wanted to play college golf.” “I had to wear a brace for another three months while I was recovering from the surgery, and then I couldn&apost bend or twist for six months, or lift more than five pounds.” But the surgery was successful and her back, while not perfect, stood up to the rigors of a successful college career at Arkansas. “I&aposm not even going to think about tomorrow&aposs round until tomorrow comes,” she said. “I played in some professional events as an amateur and I think those situations have really helped me to be in this position now.” Creamer had a chance to join Lewis at the top of the leaderboard heading into the final round, but missed a birdie opportunity at the last. “I feel very confident,” said the 21-year-old Californian, who has already won twice this year. “I&aposm enjoying it and trying not to put too much pressure on myself.” “As long as I put myself in position on Sunday (US time), that&aposs all you can do. I love where I&aposm at. Ask me tomorrow how I feel.” In-Kyung Kim (69) sits alone in fifth on six-under, a shot clear of Mi Hyun Kim (70), with Women&aposs US Amateur champion Maria Jose Uribe (72) and halfway leader Angela Park (75) in a tie for seventh at four-under. Annika Sorenstam (72) is a further two shots off the pace after enduring a frustrating day on the greens. “I&aposm about to cry,” said Sorenstam, a three-time Open champion. “I cannot hit the ball any better and I really don&apost know what to do.” Meanwhile, former world No.1 Webb slammed officials for the way they have set up the course for this week&aposs Open. Webb, a two-time Open champion, says the Interlachen course is playing far too easily, and she lays the blame firmly with the United States Golf Association (USGA). “I really don&apost understand what the USGA have tried to achieve this week, because they&aposve kept the greens soft all week,” said the Florida-based Australian. “I think the course played harder on Monday (US time) than it is now. When you&aposve played a lot of US Opens, your mindset is that par&aposs good, but it really isn&apost this week. There&aposs got to be 20 or 30 players under par and I don&apost think that&aposs what this course should be giving up.” “It opens it up to people who don&apost have great distance control and to me that&aposs what the US Open is about, good ball-striking. If you&aposre putting yourself in positions where you should be, you&aposre supposed to be at an advantage, but I don&apost think it&aposs playing that way right now.” “Faster and firmer greens thins the field out. If we&aposd played the course the first two rounds like it was on Monday, six-under would be a remarkable score.” Mike Davis, the USGA official responsible for the course set-up, said the greens had been the same speed and firmness every day, including practice days. He said: “No disrespect to Karrie, but this is as consistent a course set-up as I&aposve ever seen.” United States Women&aposs Open, third round leaderboard, Edina (Par 73) -9: Stacy Lewis 73 70 67 -8: Paula Creamer 70 72 69 -7: Inbee Park 72 69 71, Helen Afredsson 70 71 71 -6: In-Kyung Kim 71 73 69 -5: Mi Hyun Kim 72 72 70 -4: Angela Park 73 67 75, Maria Jose Uribe 69 74 72 -3: Jeong Jang 73 69 74, Teresa Lu 71 72 73, Momoko Ueda 72 71 73, Young Kim 74 71 71 -2: Minea Blomqvist 72 69 76, Cristie Kerr 72 70 75, Annika Sorenstam 75 70 72 -1: Nicole Castrale 74 70 74, Seon Hwa Lee 75 70 73, Stacy Prammanasudh 75 72 71, Na Yeon Choi 76 71 71 Also: +2: Katherine Hull (Australia) 72 72 77 +3: Karrie Webb (Australia) 75 75 72 +5: Lindsey Wright (Australia) 78 72 74, Rachel Hetherington (Australia) 71 75 78