Minjee Lee’s reign as the Evian Championship holder is all but over after a disappointing third round extinguished any lingering slim hope for her at the French major.
But while Australia’s two-time major winner got stuck on Saturday’s ‘moving day’ at Evian-les-Bains, struggling round with a two-over par 73 that only dragged her further back into the pack, Canada’s Brooke Henderson remained on pole to succeed Lee as champion.
Seeking her second major after her Women’s PGA Championship in 2016, Henderson recorded a three-under 68 to give her a two-shot lead on 17-under par – just two off the 54-hole record for the tournament.
“It wasn’t as good as the first two days, but, yeah, really hung in there. Made some clutch par saves on back nine, which felt nice,” Henderson said.
“Not as many birdies on the card. Felt like the course is playing a little bit tougher for me today. Hopefully go out tomorrow and continue to ball strike pretty well and hopefully make some putts.”
It left her a whopping 16 shots clear of Lee, who is one-under for the tournament, tied for 58th overall.
Last year, the Perth player went into the final Sunday seven shots adrift but still went on to win in a play-off after a blistering fightback but not even a repeat of that would get her into the title picture this time.
Despite her recent fine form, the 26-year-old’s hopes were immediately scuppered on Saturday when she suffered a triple bogey seven at the first hole.
Four birdies followed, but Lee also made three more bogeys as her hopes of adding to her Evian and Women’s US Open major titles were ended.
Henderson, who had opened up with a record-breaking pair of 64s on Thursday and Friday, would have been three shots clear if not for a missed three footer at the last hole.
She’s still two ahead of So Yeon Ryu, a two-time major winner from South Korea whose 65 included three birdies on her last four holes, and four clear of the surprise packet Sophia Schubert, the world No.283 from the US who’s never had a top-50 finish in a major.
Olympic champion Nelly Korda, second behind Henderson overnight, shot only an even-par 71 and is now six shots off the lead in a five-way tie for sixth alongside world No.1 Jin Young Ko (67).
LPGA Tour stalwart Sarah Kemp, whose four-under 68 on Friday left her best placed among the Australian contingent in joint-16th place, slipped down the leaderboard, tied for 44th at three under after a disappointing 74.
Perth’s Hannah Green, the 2019 Women’s PGA champ, is now top of the Aussie pile, after shooting a two-under 69 to move to four under in joint-37th position. Sydney’s Steph Kyriacou (70) was tied for 51st at two under.