Se Ri Pak remained calm as the wicked winds of Wisconsin swirled around her.
The 20-year-old rookie from South Korea shot a 4-over-par 75 to retain a one-stroke lead at 1-over 214 after Saturday's third round of the U.S. Women's Open, a day on which nobody broke par for the first time since 1983.Pak may have mastered the conditions, but the course was another matter altogether.
Her lead appeared certain to be two strokes as she and playing partner Liselotte Neumann dealt with the 18th hole, a water-lined 421-yard par-4 that has been the toughest of the 18 holes that make up the 6,421-yard Blackwolf Run Golf Course.
Neumann's tee shot veered left into the water and Pak, her drive in the middle of the fairway, put her approach shot on the fringe of the green. A par would give Pak a two-stroke lead over unlikely challenger Mhairi McKay, whose 73 Saturday left her 2-over 215 for the tournament.
But as happened throughout this sunny and windy Saturday, fortunes changed in an instant.
Neumann pitched in from the drop area some 70 yards from the green for an unlikely par.
"I think that ranks right up there," said Neumann, who won the Open 10 years ago. "That has got to be one of my best shots ever. And at a good time, too. That couldn't have been better timing."
Pak, appearing shaken by the turn of events, three-putted for bogey and a one-stroke lead over Neu-mann, who had a 75, and McKay.
"No, I am not mad," Pak said. "That is really a tough lie. You know, it happens on a golf course like this."
Neumann went from disgusted to delighted in a split second.
"I was not very happy walking up to that shot," she said. "At this point now I am looking at a bogey, maybe a double-bogey and I just tried to hit my chip shot, just tried to get it close.
"If I could make a bogey, you know, I figured where Se Ri was, maybe she had a good chance to make par there. I figured I was just going to come in tomorrow three shots behind."
Neumann's day ended like it started, with satisfaction. When she got up and heard the wind, she figured it was her ally.
"In a way, I was quite pleased that it was windy today," Neumann said. "I don't hit the ball that high. I can keep it low. It was a good, positive attitude for me to have."
The whistling winds sounded sweet to McKay, too.
"I wasn't unhappy. It reminded me a lot of playing at home," said McKay, who honed her game at Turnberry in her native Scotland.
But Neumann and McKay weren't immune to the wind. Like Pak, they went through the same problems trying to hold the lead.
Neumann once was 4-under for the tournament, only to have five straight bogeys on the back nine.
"Just playing in the wind, I think you kind of run out of gas a little bit," she admitted. "You are just concentrating so hard out there that it's hard to keep your focus the whole time."