Course record Kim leads at Masters

IK Kim of South Korea equalled the women’s professional course record at Buckinghamshire Golf Club with a flawless third round of nine-under-par 63 to take a four-stroke lead into the final round of the ISPS HANDA Ladies European Masters.

After searing heat for the first two rounds and heavy rain overnight, conditions were much more conducive to scoring for the third round on Saturday.

The world number 24, Kim took advantage of the softer greens by posting nine birdies for a three-round total of 14-under-par 202. She ended four clear of the world’s number one amateur Minjee Lee, with fellow Australian Sarah Kemp and Amelia Lewis of the United States a stroke further behind in a tie for third.

“Condition wise it was a bit tricky today because it rained a lot last night. The greens were a little bit softer and I think that helped a bit too, scoring wise,” said Kim, 26. “There was a little bit of luck there because on the front nine it poured for two holes but I was hitting wedge into the green so I was lucky that I was able to score well on those holes.”

Kim went out in 33 but came home in just 30 strokes. After making birdies on the second and sixth holes, she almost aced the par-three seventh when her ball almost pitched in the hole from 147 yards but she had to settle for a birdie from 11 feet. On the back nine, she birdied holes 10, 11, 13, 14, 15 and 17 and made a terrific par on 16 after drawing an 8-iron shot around a tree.

Kim took her inspiration from her British caddie, Gerald Adams, who was struck directly in the face by a golf ball during Wednesday’s Pro-Am. The blow broke his nose, but after a brief visit to hospital and readjustment, he was back at the course with a smile the same afternoon.

Only 12 months ago, Adams was too weak to work at the tournament as he was recovering from prostate cancer treatment. The other caddies and players wore blue badges with the initials ‘GA’ as a demonstration of their support.

“He inspired me in so many ways this week. He’s just so positive and such a good person to be around and I think that really relaxed me, being with the right person,” Kim said. “When there’s a situation that’s not too easy he just makes jokes out of it. He doesn’t take himself too seriously and he’s so kind.”

There was another bogey-free round from Lee, a protégé of the defending champion Karrie Webb, who had five birdies in a 67. Lee said: “It was pretty stress free and no bogeys and I gave myself a lot of opportunities. I missed a couple and made some. I can improve on it so I’m looking forward to it tomorrow. The greens were really soft and I could get to the front pins so that helped for everyone. It only rained for one hole for me and the weather was perfect for golf.”

Amelia Lewis was also faultless with four birdies on her score card. She said: “No bogeys. I was very consistent and only missed one green, which was why I played so well. I had a lot of birdie opportunities and my caddie kept me in a good mood.”

Germany’s Caroline Masson and Australian Nikki Campbell share fifth place on eight-under-par, with Sarah-Jane Smith, Stacey Lee Bregman, Sally Watson and Lee-Anne Pace a stroke further behind.

English star Charley Hull fired a 68 to sit at four-under-par going into the final round, but still felt capable of making a charge on Sunday.

“I putted better today. I spent three hours on the green after my round yesterday to get it working so it was feeling good,” Hull said.

The defending champion Karrie Webb three-putted the last for a 70, which left her 11 strokes off the lead in a share of 20th position.

The final round gets underway at 9.15am on Sunday, with the leading trio out last at 2.05pm.