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Wie Annika Share 54-Hole Lead

2006 U.S. Womens OpenNEWPORT, R.I. -- Michelle Wie's 10-foot birdie putt on the 18th hole hung on the edge of the cup and kept her from the outright lead Sunday in the U.S. Women's Open. Instead, she will be in a three-way tie going into the final round for the second straight year, this time under tougher circumstances.
She was tied with Annika Sorenstam, the No. 1 player in women's golf, and big-hitting Brittany Lincicome.
And the leaders had no more than 25 minutes to grab lunch before heading out for another 18 holes at Newport Country Club, where they were dealing with wind gusts up to 20 mph and the pressure of trying to capture the biggest prize in women's golf.
Lincicome, the first-round leader at The Orchards two years ago, had the best score of the third round at 2-under 69, one of only three players who broke par.
Wie, the 16-year-old from Hawaii with another chance to become the youngest major champion in golf history, traded two birdies with two bogeys, but kept her round together with key par saves along the way and shot 71.
A year ago, Wie was tied for the lead with Morgan Pressel and Karen Stupples until getting stuck in the rough and missing short putts, collapsing to an 82. In the first two majors this year, she finished one shot out of a playoff at the Kraft Nabisco Championship and two shots out of the playoff at the LPGA Championship.
Sorenstam also was poised to capture the U.S. Women's Open for the third time, ending a 10-year drought in the major. She got up-and-down for birdie on the par-5 first hole, but that was her only birdie. She dropped three more shots along the way, and threw her head back in disbelief when a 25-foot birdie on the 18th turned away.
They were at even-par 213, and at this rate, the winning score looked as though it would be over par for the second straight year.
It was the first 36-hole final at the U.S. Women's Open since 1990, brought on by fog that wiped out play Thursday.
The loudest cheers on a warm, sunny morning along the Atlantic were for Juli Inkster, the 46-year-old matriarch of this championship. Inkster won in 1999 and 2002, the latter memorable for her taking down Sorenstam in the final round at Prairie Dunes.
Inkster was among five players who had at least a share of the lead at one point in the third round, getting through the front nine in even par before hitting her stride. She holed a 15-foot birdie putt at No. 10, missed from 5 feet on the 12th, then joined the leaders with a chip-in for birdie from about 25 feet behind the 15th green.
But her tee shot on the par-3 17th skidded off a mound and into a bunker, and she missed a 6-foot par putt. Then she missed the fairway on the 18th, had to lay up, missed the green and had to hole a 6-foot putt to escape with bogey. Despite the back-to-back bogeys to end her round at 71, Inkster was one shot behind at 214, along with Stacy Prammanasudh, who birdied the 18th for a 71.
Pat Hurst was tied with Sorenstam to start the third round and among the five players atop the leaderboard until a bogey-bogey finish dropped her to a 75. She was still two shots behind at 215.
Sophie Gustafson, who got married two weeks ago to former LPGA Tour commissioner Ty Votaw, shot 71 as she continued her strong affection for Newport. It is a links-styled golf course, and the tall Swede, one of the longest hitters in the women's game, has had great success on the links of the Women's British Open.
Among those still in the hunt were LPGA Championship winner Se Ri Pak. She struggled to a 74, but with 18 holes remaining, was only four shots behind. Pak kept it together on the back nine with an unlikely par save from deep rough and the bunker at No. 12, then recovering from bogeys with birdies, including a 10-footer on the last hole.
Wie holed birdie putts from 6 feet on the second hole and from 10 feet on the eighth, while three-putting from 20 feet at the par-3 fourth and failing to save par from the bunker right of the par-3 13th green. But she stayed near or in the lead by getting up-and-down from in front of the ninth green, and hitting a short-sided bunker shot at No. 12 that barely climbed out of the trap, skidded through the rough and onto the green to 3 feet.
Related Links:
  • Leaderboard - U.S. Women's Open
  • Full Coverage - U.S. Women's Open