WALTON-ON-THE-HILL – Lilia Vu moved into position to become the first American this century to win multiple women’s majors in the same year.
She’s got company atop the leaderboard in home favorite Charley Hull at the Women’s British Open.
The final major of the year came to life Saturday at Walton Heath thanks to a third-round collapse from overnight leader Ally Ewing, whose five-shot advantage lasted nine holes before she was swallowed up by a slew of chasers.
First it was Vu, who won the Chevron Championship in April, and then came another American in Angel Yin before Hull made three straight birdies from No. 15 to join the party.
Vu (67) and Hull (68) shared the lead on 9-under par at the end of the round. One shot back was Yin (67), who lost a playoff to Vu at the Chevron, and Hyo Joo Kim (68), and Ewing was two off the lead after shooting 3-over 75 — nine strokes worse than her second round.
The last American woman to win multiple majors in the same season was Juli Inkster in 1999.
"It’s been a while since I played Chevron that I actually felt pretty decent about my game and where it’s at," said the No. 6-ranked Vu, who missed the cut at two of the other majors this year's and then was tied for 42nd at the Evian Championship. "So I’m just going to do the same thing I did today — just focusing on tee shots and giving myself a good opportunity for birdies, and just do that tomorrow, not think too much about the wind.
“Because every time that happens, it just slips away from me.”
More big names are in sight of the lead after a day of strong scoring at the heathland course southwest of London.
Linn Grant, a 24-year-old with a smooth swing and a recent win on the LPGA Tour, is three back after a 68, and a stroke further adrift on 5 under is two-time British Open champion Jiyai Shin (69). Top-ranked Nelly Korda cannot be discounted, either, after shooting 69 to be five off the lead.
It looked like Vu and Yin would be set for another final-round duel at a major championship, only for a brilliant finish by Hull — who lives around 30 minutes from the course and is getting the biggest cheers of the week.
Rebounding from a bogey at No. 14, she made three birdies in a row, headlined by a tee shot to 4 feet at the par-3 17th.
A place in the final pairing was at stake as she went to No. 18, and she pushed her tee shot right and into some heather. She chopped out and got up-and-down for par, a finish that brought a big smile to a player who was runner-up at the U.S. Women's Open at Pebble Beach last month.
Vu made her move with five birdies in seven holes from No. 5, before picking up more shots at Nos. 16 and 18.
“I think you’re always nervous, no matter what position you’re in, because if you’re leading, you kind of don’t have the win yet,” Vu said. “You never really have it until the final round, 72nd hole and you’re done with your putt.”
Ewing, who hasn't won a major, was tied for the largest 36-hole lead at the Women’s British Open since it became a major in 2001. She still doesn't think she's out of contention despite struggling in the third round.
“The nerves were obviously there but at the same time, I was mentally in a good place to know that I was going to be presented with challenges,” Ewing said. “Didn’t execute shots quite like I wanted to early on but I fought really hard today, and, you know, I’m teeing it up tomorrow with still a great chance to win this golf tournament.”
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