BETHESDA, Md. (AP) — This was the moment the rest of the field needed: In Gee Chun standing near the trees, contemplating her situation and then eventually heading back to the point of her previous shot.
A shaky third round cut her lead at the Women's PGA Championship in half.
Chun shot a 3-over 75 on Saturday, leaving her three strokes ahead going into the final round at Congressional Country Club. On a day the leaders had plenty of trouble, Chun was holding her own until she made a double bogey on the par-5 16th hole.
“Looking forward to an exciting final round already,” she said. “If it’s going to be too easy, then I feel it is boring.”
It looked like the final round might be boring — or at least anticlimactic — as Chun maintained a comfortable lead through much of Saturday. She bogeyed Nos. 1 and 11 but birdied 2 and 12. Her lead was at five when she had to play her third shot from some tall grass on the 564-yard 16th.
That shot put her in even more trouble, in an area with tall grass and some trees. She took an unplayable lie and went back to the previous spot to re-hit.
An 8-iron from there went over the green, but Chun did manage to get up and down for a 7. The two-time major champion from South Korea led by five shots after the first round and six at the halfway point. After the third round, she had an 8-under 208 total.
Lydia Ko (76) and Jennifer Kupcho (74) — Chun's playing partners — had their own problems, but Lexi Thompson and Hye-Jin Choi both shot 70 and were tied for second with Sei Young Kim (71) at 5 under.
Thompson will play in the final group as she tries for her first major victory since 2014.
“You always want to be in the final group in any tournament,” she said. “I love that the hard work has been able to pay off for me. I’ve been putting in the time, so to see it pay off and pay dividends means the world to me.”
Ko wasn't able to take advantage of Chun's struggles. She bogeyed four of five holes during one stretch on the front nine, then birdied four of the next seven. She wrapped up the round with four straight bogeys.
Kupcho had three birdies and three bogeys in the first seven holes and couldn't gain much ground on the leader.
Kim, who won this event two years ago, had a comparatively drama-free round with two birdies and a bogey. Choi shot 34 on the back nine while playing in a group with Thompson. They'll be together again Sunday.
"It was the first time playing with her, and I actually watched her as a fan when I was an amateur," Choi said. “It was a good experience to play with her. Of course, I tried to focus on my game.”
Thompson made three birdies on the back nine, including a putt from about 30 feet on No. 15. She has 11 LPGA Tour victories but none since 2019. She's played her way into contention after a first-round 74.
Thompson finished second at Crown Colony in February and at Upper Montclair last month.
"I know I’m in a good state with my game and just my mental state, so going out tomorrow enjoying the walk with my caddie and hopefully a lot of fans out there supporting us," she said. “Whatever score I shoot, I shoot.”
Hannah Green (72) was fifth at 4 under, a stroke ahead of Atthaya Thitikul (68), who was so far behind at the start of the day she was in one of the groups sent off on No. 10. Brooke Henderson (73) of Smiths Falls, Ont., Kupcho and Jennifer Chang (73) were tied for sixth with Thitikul.
Maude-Aimee Leblanc (84) of Sherbrooke, Que., is 71st.
NOTES: U.S. Women's Open champ Minjee Lee (73) was 2 under. ... Defending champion Nelly Korda (72) was tied for 29th.
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Noah Trister, The Associated Press