WEST POINT, Miss. -- True to her word, Juli Inkster continued her relentless assault on Old Waverly Golf Club with fearless, aggressive play that left her 18 holes away from winning her first U.S. Women's Open.
Inkster birdied the first two holes to take command Saturday, then poured it on down the stretch for a 5-under 67 that shattered the 54-hole record and gave her a four-stroke lead over Lorie Kane and Kelli Kuehne.She finished at 15-under 201, and was already thinking ahead to the final round.
"I don't think 15 under is going to win it," Inkster said. "This course lets you play aggressively. I made my share of birdies today."
Don't be misled by the fact Inkster is 38 and dotes on her two young daughters. She is regarded as the one of the best front-runners in women's golf, which doesn't bode well for those trying to catch her.
"She's the kind of player who doesn't feel bad drilling it to you," Dottie Pepper said.
That's just what Inkster did.
On another sweltering day in which the temperatures soared to 102, Inkster knocked in a 15-footer on the first hole, hit a bunker shot to 4 feet for birdie on No. 2 and never let anyone get closer than two strokes the rest of the round.
Her 54-hole score breaks the previous tournament record of 203 set by Alison Nicholas at Pumpkin Ridge two years ago. The score in relation to par is five strokes better than what Nicholas had after three rounds.
More importantly, she gave herself a little breathing room in her quest to win the third leg of the LPGA's modern grand slam.
"I think it's my tournament," Inkster said. "All the pressure is going to be on me. That's the toughest part of tomorrow. But I'm playing well, and I'm playing relaxed."
Kane, a Canadian trying to win for the first time, recovered from two early bogeys for a 71 that put her at 204. She was joined there by Kuehne, the two-time U.S. Women's Amateur champion, who made a 35-foot birdie putt on the 18th for a 70.
Sherri Turner, who had broken par just once in 44 Open rounds until this week, bogeyed two of the last three holes for a 68 and was at 206.
Unless Inkster cracks on Sunday, everyone else will be playing for second.
"The thing is to get off to a good start and put some pressure on her," said Karrie Webb, seven strokes back after a 68. "That's when she's going to feel the pressure -- if she ever feels it. If she gets off to a good start, she's clear sailing."
This has been the lowest-scoring Women's Open in the event's 54-year history.
MEMORIAL TOURNAMENT: At Dublin, Ohio, Tiger Woods' four-stroke lead melted to one but he held off playing partner Vijay Singh down the stretch Saturday to lead by two shots after three rounds at the Memorial Tournament.
Woods, never higher than 51st in two previous Memorials, is at 12-under 204 after a 70. Singh, who won the Memorial two years ago, shot a 71 to get to 206. They will be paired again in the final round.
CADILLAC CLASSIC: At Clifton, N.J., even a painful back isn't slowing down Allen Doyle in his first full year on the Senior PGA Tour.
Using his unique slapshot style swing, Doyle shot a 6-under-par 66 Saturday and opened a four-shot lead over Lee Trevino after two rounds of the $1.1 million Cadillac NFL Golf Classic.
Bob Charles, Joe Inman and John Bland were another stroke back and one ahead of a group that included Dana Quigley, whose second-round 65 was the best score of the day.
ENGLISH OPEN: At Ware, England, Darren Clarke birdied the last five holes for the second day in a row for a 67 Saturday to upstage Colin Montgomerie and take a five-stroke lead in the $1.1 million English Open.
Clarke, who led by two overnight, made his charge after Montgomerie tamed the Hanbury Manor course with a 65 to tie for the lead along with fellow Scots Andrew Coltart and Gary Orr, England's David Carter and John Bickerton and Australia's Stephen Leaney.