TOKYO—Yuka Saso found her rhythm in the third round on Friday, submitting a four-under 67 to move up the leaderboard in the women’s golf competition of the Tokyo Olympics at the Kasumigaseki Country Club.
Saso, 20, showed some of the form that won her a historic US Women’s Open title and nailed five birdies including her last two on the eighth and ninth holes after she teed off in the back nine.
She had a lone bogey on the 10th.
The birdie-birdie finish pushed Saso from joint 34th at the start of the day to a tie for 20th place on a four-under 209 with one round left to play in her Olympic debut.
The Jakarta 2018 Asian Games double gold winner, however, stood 11 shots off the fiery pace set by American Nelly Korda, who followed a 62 with a 69 and still remained three shots clear of the field on a 15-under 198 total.
Indian youngster Aditi Ashok was in second spot at 12-under 201 after a 68 while tied for third at 10-under are Lydia Ko of New Zealand (66), Hannah Green of Australia (67), Mone Imami of Japan (68) and Dane Emily Pedersen (70).
Bianca Pagdanganan, on the other hand, blew a hot start with two double bogeys and a bogey in a sloppy back nine and settled for a second straight 71—good for a share of 29th place with two others at 209.
The 23-year-old Pagdanganan got as low as five-under after three birdies in her first 10 holes, but a combination of bad shots and bad breaks got her coming in.
Korda, meanwhile, had to work for pars instead of making birdies look routine, and the 23-year-old American did well enough to keep her distance in pursuit of an Olympic gold medal.
Korda saved par with a five-foot putt on the 17th hole and then got up-and-down from behind the 18th with a nifty pitch to 4 feet to finish with 12 straight pars at a two-under 69.
She had a three-shot lead over Aditi Ashok of India, who is nearly last in the 60-player field in driving distance and near the top in sheer determination. She had a 68.
And for now, there will be a final round.
Olympic golf officials plan to start play as early as possible Saturday and take advantage of a window they hope is big enough to squeeze in 72 holes before a tropical storm in the forecast arrives.
Korda let out a sigh when her final par putt dropped. This was a day when her swing was off and she managed to hold it together at Kasumigaseki Country Club.
Korda was at 15-under 198 as she tries to add a gold medal to a year in which she won her first major and reached No. 1 in the world.
Behind her was another fight shaping up for the bronze. Mone Inami of Japan, who was given the honor of hitting the opening tee shot, missed a 7-foot par putt on the final hole for a 68. She was five shots behind in four-way tie for third with Lydia Ko of New Zealand (66), Hanna Green of Australia (67) and Emily Kristine Pedersen of Denmark (70).