Kaufman survives wild ride

 

If you’d told Kim Kaufman pre-round that she’d hit the two shots of the day, she’d doubtless have been delighted.

If you told her she’d card a 75, she’d likely have been mortified.

As it stands, neither really matters.

The American, chasing her first LPGA Tour title, will start tomorrow’s final round of the ISPS Handa Vic Open in the same spot she began today’s windswept third round – two clear of the field.

Only tomorrow, the immediate chasing pack will look markedly different after a day of pure carnage.

Frenchwoman Celine Boutier carded a classy three-under-par 69 to scythe through the field and reach eight under par alongside hometown hero Su Oh.

Oh arrived in the final group despite a 74 that threatened to be much worse after a pair of opening bogeys, but wore down former Women’s Australian Open champion Haru Nomura (76) who was a victim of the trying weather as the day progressed, but clung on at seven under.

There’s then a three-shot gap back to the next wave, which includes Korean Mirim Lee (69), English duo Jodi Ewart Shadhoff (72) and Felicity Johnson (74) and another local hope, Katherine Kirk (73).

Remarkably, legendary Karrie Webb (82) and defending champ Minjee Lee (74) fell on the wrong side of the one-over cut line after days both would rather forget.

The round, which took six hours for the leading groups, was best summed up by Kaufman, schooled in west Texas so no stranger to tough conditions.

“That was six hours of just getting beat up by the wind,” she said.

“We had maybe two tee boxes where we got out of it and we all just went, `Oh, thank God for one second’.

“We all survived.”

Kaufman’s round arguably hinged on one spectacular shot – a holed bunker blast on the treacherous par-three seventh that was claiming victims hand over fist in both men’s and women’s fields.

And there was nobody more surprised than the American went her ball dropped into the hole.

“It was so windy in that bunker, my club wasn't really even set, but I stood there too long and I said, `I've got to hit this’,” she said.

“The minute I hit it, I was like, `Oh, it's way too far’, but I just jarred it.

“I can say I've never done that before and it was a great time to do it.

“It's a great to do it any time, but to not have to putt on that green (and) just to get out of that hole, I would have paid money to do that again.”

Oh, joint runner-up in the 2015 Vic Open, knew she’d done well to remain in touch with Kaufman despite not having her best form, and knows it will likely be tense tomorrow as she, as Kaufman, chases her first LPGA Tour crown.

“It would mean a lot, like everything, I guess, but especially at my state Open,” Oh said.

“The first tournament, it would be just be amazing.  I don't know, I don't think anybody would be sad that they won, so I'm going to fight for it.”

Oh was stunned by the support of her home crowd in such trying conditions.

“I was so shocked how many people were out. It was not nice – it was cold, it was windy, it was raining, and then the sun was out and it was like pouring again.  I really appreciate everybody coming out and supporting the tournament.”