The Evian Championship is turning downright Darwinian with the feeling that Sunday is going to be all about the survival of the fittest.
Hyo Joo Kim might have started the week with a record-setting 61, the lowest score ever posted in a men’s or women’s major, but she regained the lead Saturday on a tough setup that severely punished misses.
With awkward lies on a course built on the side of a mountain, with winds picking up, with severely undulating greens, quick green speeds and tough pin placements, the year’s final major championship is becoming a serious test of skill and patience.
With a 1-over-par 72, Kim overtook second-round leader Brittany Lincicome, who paid the price early and often for her misses.
At 8-under 205, Kim is a shot ahead of Hall of Famer Karrie Webb (70) and two ahead of M.J. Hur (72).
Lincicome started the third round with back-to-back double bogeys and made a triple bogey at the seventh on her way to a 77. Still, with trouble visiting most everyone, Lincicome will tee it up Sunday just four shots off the lead.
How much trouble was there? Hur was tied for the lead before chipping into the water at the 16th and making triple bogey. Defending champion Suzann Pettersen was within two shots of the lead early on the back nine but doubled the 17th, posted a 74 and walked away five shots off the lead. Rolex world No. 1 Stacy Lewis topped a shot in the 15th fairway, knocked her approach into the water at the 18th and posted six bogeys on her way to a 73 that leaves her five shots back.
Though more than one pin was tucked on the edge of a green near a hazard coming home on the back nine, there were no complaints from players about the setup in the transcripts of post-round interviews with media after the round.
Kim, 19, one of the stars of the Korean LPGA, is in position to win her first major championship.
Webb, 39, is seeking to join Betsy Rawls in a tie for sixth on the LPGA’s list of most major championships won. Webb’s seven major championship titles already include five different majors. Evian would be her sixth different major.
“Any chance you have to win a major is special,” Webb said.
Webb gave herself a chance playing the difficult back nine better than anyone else in contention. She was bogey free after making the turn, shooting 34 to pick up ground as the leaders stumbled.
“There are some really tough shots coming in,” Webb said. “You know, 16, that was playing quite challenging today, to pick the right club. And you got to keep it right of the hole.
“Challenging finish, but I did a really good job, and finished the last four in 2‑under. That really made my round.”