Spain’s Azahara Munoz has big guns chasing her in ASI Ladies Scottish Open

Stacy Lewis, Lydi Ko and Danielle Kang all in mix at The Renaissance Club

Spain's Azahara Munoz will take a one-shot lead into the final day of the Aberdeen Standard Investments Ladies Scottish Open. Picture: Jane Barlow/PA Wire

Stacy Lewis reckons The Renaissance Club has a “major feel” to it this week. So, too, does the leaderboard in the $1.5 million Aberdeen Standard Investments Ladies Scottish Open. Spaniard Azahara Munoz is out in front heading into the final round but has some big guns breathing down her neck at the East Lothian venue.

Lewis, a Women’s Open winner at St Andrews in 2013, is just one shot back. Lydia Ko, a two-time major champion, is also lurking ominously, as is Danielle Kang, who is bidding for a third Sunday success on the trot after back-to-back wins in Ohio following the LPGA Tour’s restart after the Covid-19 lockdown.

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Munoz and Lewis started the day tied for the lead on five-under and stayed locked together for most of the round. That Munoz, a 32-year-old from Malaga, eventually emerged with her nose in front was down to holing birdie putts from around 20 feet at both the 15th and 18th as Lewis missed from much closer on each occasion. “It’s been another solid day,” said the leader.

Taking her “medicine” by playing out backwards from a bunker at the fifth was a key moment in her 69 as she moved to seven-under. “It was actually really hard,” said Munoz, who has one LPGA Tour title to her name, of that decision. “I wanted to go for the pin, but my caddie was saying ‘let’s just not get greedy’ because it was plugged against the lip and the lip was pretty high. I actually made an amazing bogey.”

Korea’s MJ Hur won this event last year with a 20-under-par total, firing a 62 in the process. With 66, shot by Lewis on day two, being the best score so far this week, the aggregate might not even be in double figures on this occasion. That’s down to the course set-up being spot on and the rough being a bit jucier.

“The course has a major feel to it,” said Lewis of the Tom Doak-designed layout after carding a 66. “I think what’s given us this great leaderboard is how hard this golf course is playing, and your best players are rising up.”

The 35-year-old intends drawing on her experience of winning on Scottish soil. “Certainly played a lot of golf over here,” she added.” I understand the links. It’s really just that patience of knowing when to take your chances and when not to.”

American Jennifer Song sits third on five-under, one ahead of compatriot Cheyenne Knight and Ko, who is on a redemption mission. She threw away what would have been a 21st title triumph worldwide by signing off with a costly 7 in the Marathon LPGA Classic last Sunday. The 23-year-old handled that disappointment in her normal classy way and her third-round 67 – the day’s best score by two shots – had class written all over it.

“I kept believing in my game and having a tournament right after makes you focus on what’s right there in front of you,” said the Kiwi of setting up another last-day title tilt, having made the cut for the first time in this event.

With just five shots separating the top ten, world No 2 Kang is loitering with intent on two-under, having made her move with a burst of four birdies in five holes around the turn.

Helped by knocking in a 30-footer for an eagle-2 at the 13th, Kylie Henry carded a 69 for two-over to sit in a tie for 24th, having secured one of the 21 spots up for grabs in this week’s AIG Women’s Open at Royal Troon. Gemma Dryburgh, who is already in that field, and Michele Thomson are on four-over and 13-over respectively.

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