Hae Ran Ryu shoots bogey-free 64 for lead in NW Arkansas event

by Joanne Miller

LPGA Tour Rookie Hae Ran Ryu Extends Lead in Walmart NW Arkansas Championship

In a spectacular performance, LPGA Tour rookie Hae Ran Ryu continued her impressive run at the Walmart NW Arkansas Championship, shooting a bogey-free 7-under 64 in the third round to extend her lead to two strokes. With one round left to play, Ryu seems poised to secure her first LPGA Tour victory.

Playing her final nine holes at the Pinnacle Country Club, Ryu displayed remarkable consistency and precision, carding five birdies on the third, fourth, fifth, sixth, and ninth holes. The 22-year-old South Korean player, who was the LPGA Q-Series medalist last year, credited her confidence and flawless shot-making for her exceptional performance.

Threatening Ryu’s lead is Lexi Thompson, who finished the third round six strokes behind. Thompson, an 11-time LPGA Tour winner, managed to shoot a bogey-free 69, but struggled to accumulate birdies, securing only two throughout the round. Currently ranked 138th in the Race to CME Globe, Thompson faces the risk of losing her tour card for 2024 if she fails to improve her position.

While Thompson’s chances of victory may seem slim, her recent success in Spain during the United States’ tie against Europe showcased her potential for a comeback. Thompson’s impressive 3-1 record in that event earned her a spot on the leaderboard, notwithstanding her current position.

Joining Ryu in second place are fellow tour rookies Yuna Nishimura of Japan and Hannah Green of Australia. Both players showed exceptional skill, with Nishimura shooting a 64 and Green carding her second consecutive 65. Green, in particular, displayed a positive outlook, emphasizing that anything is possible on the final day and citing the potential for a low-scoring round that could see an underdog rise to the top.

Green, who clinched her third LPGA Tour title earlier this year at the LA Championship, understands the importance of starting strongly and maintaining momentum in a competition as fiercely contested as the Walmart NW Arkansas Championship.

Other notable performers include Jenny Shin from South Korea, shooting 66 and finishing the day at 11 under, while compatriot Sei Young Kim secured a 63 to stand at 10 under.

One of the highlights of Ryu’s remarkable performance is her ongoing streak of 52 consecutive bogey-free holes. Ryu expressed slight concern about a putt on hole 8, but managed to save par and maintain her impressive record.

Remarkably, Ryu found inspiration from her short game coach in South Korea, Seon Hwa Lee, when she spotted a picture of Lee among the past winners in the clubhouse. Ryu quickly shared the moment with Lee, sending her a text message along with a picture.

Chinese golfer Muni He also had a remarkable round, shooting an impressive 62 to finish at 7 under. He’s round was characterized by outstanding shot-making, recording 10 birdies and only one bogey.

Lydia Ko, the highest-ranked player in the field at No. 10, had a less successful round, unfortunately carding a triple bogey and finishing with a 72, leaving her at 5 under for the tournament. Despite this setback, Ko has had previous success at the Pinnacle Country Club, having won the event in 2016 and securing five other top-10 finishes.

Defending champion Atthaya Thitikul narrowly made the cut, finishing at 3 under after a third-round 71.

Notably, former University of Arkansas star Stacy Lewis, who recently captained the U.S. Solheim Cup team, missed the cut with rounds of 78 and 72. Lewis, winner of the Walmart NW Arkansas Championship in 2007 and 2014, faced difficulty finding her rhythm following her captaincy duties.

As the final round approaches, all eyes will be on Hae Ran Ryu as she aims to secure her first LPGA Tour victory, solidify her position as the leader, and showcase her incredible talent on the grand stage of the Walmart NW Arkansas Championship.

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