No player has ever stood taller on the foothills of the French Alps going into the final round of the Evian Championship.
South Korea’s In Gee Chun’s climb atop the leaderboard on the summit overlooking Lake Geneva is becoming historic.
With a 6-under-par 65 Saturday, Chun is on the verge of more than winning the year’s final major. She has a chance to smash the 72-hole scoring records for men’s and women’s major championship golf.
At 19-under 194, Chun leads fellow South Korean Sung Hyun Park (67) by four shots and China’s Shanshan Feng (69) by six.
The 72-hole scoring record in relation to par in men’s golf is 20 under and the record in women’s golf is 19 under.
Jason Day set the mark for men winning the PGA Championship at Whistling Straits in 2015 and Henrik Stenson matched it winning The Open Championship at Royal Troon this year.
Dottie Pepper set the mark for women winning the Kraft Nabisco at Mission Hills in 1999 with Karen Stupples (2004 Women’s British Open), Cristie Kerr (2010 LPGA Championship) and Yani Tseng (2011 LPGA Championship) matching it.
“I just try to focus on my game, because I know all the players [at Evian] are really good,” Chun said.
Chun’s charm, her ability to connect to fans with her easy smile, warmed the galleries on a cold Saturday in the foothills of the French Alps. She goes by the nickname “Dumbo,” a moniker she says she gained because of her natural curiosity, “like the baby elephant.” She has a devoted fan club called “The Flying Dumbos,” who adore the way she connects with galleries during play.
Chun is trying to win wire to wire.
She opened with a 63 to gain a share of the lead with Park and followed that up with a 66 on Friday to take a two-shot lead. She shot that 65 Saturday despite a double bogey at the ninth hole.
Chun said she isn’t focusing on records.
“It’s a really big honor, but I just have to stick to my game plan,” Chun said. “My game plan’s always the same. I try not to think about leading, because it becomes difficult to enjoy my game.”
Chun, 22, is looking to join South Korean legend Se Ri Pak as the only players to make their first two LPGA victories major championships. Chun won the U.S. Women’s Open last summer.
Chun’s 194 total at Evian smashed the 54-hole women’s major championship record by five shots. Annika Sorenstam previously held the mark, setting it at the 2004 LPGA Championship at DuPont Country Club in Wilmington, Delaware.
To break the record for low total score in a women’s majors, Chun merely needs to shoot 1-over-par 72 on Sunday. Betsy King holds that mark at 267. She set it at the 1992 LPGA Championship at Bethesda Country Club in Maryland.
To break the low total score in a men’s or women’s major, Chun needs to shoot 69. Stenson set the mark at 264 at Royal Troon this year.
With low scores aplenty at Evian, Chun is taking nothing for granted. Park pulled within a shot of her Saturday with birdies at the 13th and 14th holes before Chun answered with an eagle at the 15th.
“I expect tomorrow to be exciting,” said Park, 22, a star on the Korean LPGA Tour with seven victories this season. “I’ll stay the course and hope to have a good result.”
Chun was the Korean LPGA Tour’s Player of the Year last year, Park’s a lock to win it this year.
In 15 LPGA starts as a rookie this season, Chun has done everything but win. She has nine top-10 finishes, including three second-place finishes and three third-place finishes. She seems to have a game built for majors. She won five “majors” last year, with two KLPGA majors and two Japan LPGA majors to go with her U.S. Women’s Open. She is second on the American-based LPGA this year in scoring and putts per greens in regulation, trailing Lydia Ko in both categories.
Chun says she likes playing under major championship pressure.
“With all the nervousness and pressure, I play [better],” she said.