The elements conspired to turn the third round of the Aberdeen Asset Management Ladies Scottish Open into a thoroughly miserable experience for the world’s top women golfers yesterday.
Dundonald Links in Ayrshire was hit by a combination of winds gusting up to 35mph and torrential rain that threatened to swamp the leaders as they made their way down the 18th in the £1.2m tournament.
They survived, however, and it must be hoped that the weather gods are more kindly disposed towards the ladies when they reassemble for the fourth round today.
It was a measure of what the 72 survivors of the cut had to contend with that only nine of them broke par, including world No.1 So Yeon Ryu with a quite remarkable 68 in the circumstances.
Her’s was the best round of the day by a shot, but the Korean is not one of the only five players under par for the tournament.
Two who are, are the joint leaders at six-under-par, Australian Karrie Webb and Korean Sei Young Kim.
In the end, experience told when 42-year-old Webb, once the world No.1 and a seven-time major winner, held on under intense pressure from Kim.
Back-to-back closing birdies allowed Kim to match Webb’s total after the pair had posted scores of 69 and 70 respectively, while overnight leader Cristie Kerr of America was forced to settle for a 73 and third place on her own, two back.
Webb said: “We were very lucky to get finished and I am very happy with two-under because the back nine was a struggle once it started to rain.
“I felt very comfortable early on and got off to a good start, so that settled any nerves and then I just hung in there on the back nine, where I actually got a couple of breaks and made some good up-and-downs as well.
“It was very hard to keep going on the 18th when the rain was literally coming down sideways.”
Kim added: “It was really tough to focus on each shot, even for a few seconds. But it was a good finish after my putt lipped out for an eagle at the last when the wind pushed the ball.
“I have never played before in this sort of weather and it was a great experience, as it was also to play with veterans like Karrie and Cristie.”
An eagle at the last for a 76 made an exhausting near five-and-a-half-hour slog almost worthwhile for Catriona Matthew.
The 47-year-old North Berwick mother-of-two made significant strides up the leaderboard in her quest for a Solheim Cup wildcard.
Matthew is already assured of being at Des Moines, Iowa next month as one of captain Annika Sorenstam’s assistants, but she is also targeting an eighth consecutive appearance as a player in the biennial match.
Having admitted on the eve of the tournament that she needs two big weeks, at Dundonald and in the Rico Women’s British Open at Kingsbarns, she would have preferred to have been higher than mid-division on eight-over-par.
But she pointed out: “Conditions will be different over there and I just need to keep playing away and see what happens. Experience counts a little, I guess. It keeps getting windier every day here, and it was stronger than yesterday. The ball almost moved on one hole, so it was a battle and not much fun.”
Carly Booth is the leading Scot on four-over following a 75. But while the 25-year-old from Comrie in Perthshire described the conditions as “pretty brutal”, she refused to use the elements as an excuse for her four-putt for a triple-bogey 6 on the 15th, declaring: “That was just stupid. Maybe I rushed it a little and then my head went a bit.
“Tomorrow is another day, and, apart from that mistake, I hit the ball well and my score does not do my golf justice. But it was a constant battle out there and it wasn’t easy.”
The remaining Scot, Sally Watson from Edinburgh, said after a 77 and a slip to 10-over-par: “It was just about trying to grind as much as possible and the short putts were actually some of the toughest as it was hard to keep your balance.”