A driver off the deck, plenty below par and birdies everywhere. The improved conditions of Round 3 let the players really get their scores down, writes Harriet Shephard.
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The weather was kinder to the players during Round 3 of the AIG Women’s Open.
At the end of Round 2, only leader Dani Holmqvist was under par, but today the birdies came thick and fast thanks to the drop in the wind and dry conditions.
The wind did pick up slighty after 4pm however it didn't stop Sophia Popov, who was also the clubhouse leader at one point during Round 1, surging ahead from the 4th.
She secured her win with a birdie on the 17th that took her down to four under par with a round of 67 (the lowest of the week along with Olson and Kirk).
Minjee Lee (World No.8) and Jasmine Suwannapura tried their best to keep up, but they eventually finished three strokes behind Popov, with Masson, Weaver and Ernst at T4.
It's hard to know where to start with all that happened at Royal Troon today, but some of the key stories included...
Sophia Popov shoots an eagle to remember
The shot that will always stick in my mind from Round 3 is 27-year-old Sophia Popov’s stunning driver off the deck on the 4th hole.
The American-born German then completed the hole with an eagle putt to take the lead over Minjee Lee and Holmqvist by one stroke.
Her leap frog to the top left the others in contention scrambling to overtake her, and she maintained this lead all the way to the end.
Anyone who claims that women’s golf is slow or boring needs to be shown the footage of this incredible display of golf.
Popov has only won on the US-based The Cactus Tour and standing all the way down at 304 in the rankings, it would be utterly incredible if her first win was at the AIG Women's Open.
Lindsey Weaver soldiers on without a caddy
The bubbly American continued to prove that you don’t need a caddy to make it to the top of the leaderboard, and she successfully made it round with her push trolley without any bunker-based incidents (unlike the toppling in the sand episode of Round 1).
It’s not often that you see a contender for the title without a caddy in tow, and we love her for doing it by herself like this and making no fuss along the way.
Don't even get me started on her incredible par on the 12th either. She chipped it on off an awkward lie in the rough and it was truely spectacular. Up there along with Popov's driver off the fairway, this was really one of the shots of the day.
Personable and full of charm during her post-round interviews, I'll be sure to continue to follow her progress closely after this round.
Her's is definitely one of my favourite stories of the week.
Masson soars to the top
Germany's Caroline Masson lept up an incredible 13 places with her -3 finish.
Her round included five birdies and she finishes T4 and five behind the lead. She's now definitely one to watch going into the final.
Asked if she had her eyes on the trophy, she said:
"It's something you dream about, and that you can use as motivation for practise and getting better and I think that's what I've done obviously my whole career. But tomorrow, it's not about thinking about that kind of stuff. It's about staying in the moment and playing my best golf and seeing where it takes me."
Kirk and Popov join the lowest round of the week gang
Australian Katherine Kirk joined Popov in tying with Amy Olson for the lowest round of the week at 67 (-4), and she now sits at +3 for the championship.
Speaking after her round she said:
"I'm super happy. Everybody talks about Saturday being moving day, but it's nice to actually post one in the 60s. I think you'll see good scores throughout this afternoon and it will take another low one to probably catch the leaders tomorrow."
Suwannapura dresses optimistically
Jasmine Suwannapura deserves an extra mention for being one of the few players hardy enough to take on the links in a skort. I’m Northern and I still found it cold in the media centre so I can’t imagine how chilly it must have seemed to the Thai player.
Mel Reid makes up for only just making the cut...
Part of one of the first groups of the day, Mel Reid finished Round 3 at –3 (68).
Shooting four birdies, she goes into the final round at T26 and in the best position of all the British players.
It's a very different situation to yesterday, where she only just made the cut by shooting a birdie on the 18th.
Speaking afterwards to AIG she said:
“The wind isn’t strong, the rain isn’t come down but it’s still very tricky out there, you still have to focus so I’m very pleased with 68. I played more aggressively today because I had nothing to lose and it paid off.”
But the other Brits fall down the leaderboard
Catriona finished +3 with a round that included three bogies and no birdies.
Meanwhile, 2018 Women’s Open champion Georgia Hall seemed to be off to a promising start as she birdied the 3rd, 4th and the Postage Stamp. Sadly, her second round wasn't as strong and she eventually finished +10.
Lydia Ko falls back... for now
The New Zealand star suffered a double bogey on the 10th and finished T7.
But we're not ruling her out just yet. She's a fighter and after her brilliant round yesterday, we can easily see her making a comeback in the final.
Tomorrow promises to be action packed from start to finish, and with nine players six strokes or less off the lead, the fight for the trophy could get very tense indeed.
See the full leaderboard HERE.