WILLIAMSBURG—The numbers remained low Saturday in the Michelob Ultra Open at Kingsmill.
But what no one saw coming, and what was positively surreal to watch, was the world's No. 1 player falling from three shots ahead to five shots behind.
Lorena Ochoa's third-round 74 opened the door for Cristie Kerr and Lindsey Wright, who played solid golf for the third straight day to move into a share of the lead. The co-leaders stand at 15-under, a tournament record for 54 holes and one shot ahead of In-Kyung Kim going into today's final round.
Ochoa, a two-time winner already this year, is known as a pretty good closer once she gets the lead. But her nightmare of a day — in particular, that brutal double-bogey at No. 14 — created a dramatic shift.
"When you see Lorena at the top of the leaderboard, that sort of sets the wheels in motion," Wright said. "You know you've got to make birdies."
With 16 birdies and one bogey in three rounds, that's been Wright's strategy all week. Her 20-foot putt at No. 17 put Wright (65-69-64 — 198) one shot ahead of Kim and two ahead of Kerr. But Kerr (69-63-66 — 198) closed with birdies at 17 and 18 to pull even with Wright.
"It was fun to birdie those last two holes," Kerr said. "I just got in a groove and started hitting some good shots. I was feeling the speed on the greens and the reads. When that happens, I make a lot of putts. Hopefully, I can carry that to tomorrow."
After a bogey on 16 that briefly dropped her to fourth, the 20-year-old Kim (68-64-67—199) also rallied by making birdies on the last two holes.
"Not bad," she said. "It was a good round. Hit the greens more than yesterday. I'm very pleased about it."
With a steady 68 Saturday, Song-Hee Kim remained in striking distance of the leaders at 13-under. Ochoa is tied with Natalie Gulbis and Wendy Ward in fifth.
Though she was even for the day after 12 holes, Ochoa still was tied for the lead. Then came the par-3 13th, where she chipped her second shot well past the cup and two-putted coming back. That was nothing compared to what happened next.
Misjudging the wind at No. 14, a par-4, Ochoa sent her shot from the fairway behind the green and into the rough. She needed three shots to make the green and swallowed a double-bogey.
"I guess that's the way it is," she said. "Sometimes you get good breaks, sometimes you get bad breaks, and you have to accept them."
Playing in the same group, Kerr was as surprised as anybody.
"She's the No. 1 player in the world," Kerr said. "She doesn't have too many days like this."
The leaderboard looks pretty interesting.
There's Kerr, an 11-time winner — including here in 2005 — and Wright, an Australian whose best finish in four-plus years on the tour is third in last year's Fields Open in Hawaii. Both came here playing well and, maybe more important, playing consistently.
In seven starts this season, Kerr's worst finish is a tie for 19th in the Honda LPGA Thailand. She's finished in the top 10 in her last four events.
Wright got off to a slow start — given that she shot an 80 in the second round of her first tournament, that's probably charitable — but recovered. In her last three tournaments, she finished tied for 16th, tied for 11th and fourth.
In terms of championship experience, it's no contest. But Wright hardly sounds like someone overwhelmed by Sunday pressure.
"I'm excited," she said. "It's great to be in this position, and I've worked really hard to be here. It's not like, 'Oh, wow, I'm (co-)leading the tournament.' With my expectations, I expected to be here. But in saying that, it's also a new experience."