18-year-old takes three-shot lead with round-of-the-day 64

Californian 18-year-old Yealimi Noh surged to the top of the Cambia Portland Classic leaderboard with a sensational bogey-free round of 64 (-8), giving her a three-shot lead heading in to tomorrow’s final round at 19-under-par.

Saturday’s ‘moving day’ proved to be a much tougher test for the world’s best players with several of the leaderboard struggling to adjust to the pace of the greens, which firmed up throughout the day in the Portland sunshine. 

Noh had no such trouble. 

The teenager, who had a successful amateur career winning the California Girls’ State Championship, The Girls Junior PGA Championship, the U.S Girls’ Junior and the Canadian Women’s Amateur, turned down the opportunity to enroll at UCLA last summer to turn professional aged 17 and has already recorded a top ten LPGA finish at the Thornberry Creek LPGA Classic.

Starting the day six shots adrift of overnight leader Hannah Green, Noh hit the turn in 32 strokes to reduce the deficit before catching the overnight leader Green on the par 4 15th with a birdie – only one of two made on that hole all day. 

Another birdie at the 17th saw her take the outright lead for the first time before a grandstand finish on the last, holing from 20ft in front of the cheering crowd.

‘On front nine, I was kind of looking at the leaderboard, but towards the end, I didn’t — actually, I didn’t even know what I shot on the back nine. I know I was 4-under through the front. But just having that stretch of pars on the beginning of the back nine, I knew I just needed a birdie and after I kept getting birdies, I didn’t know what I shot but I’m happy with the round.’

Columbia Edgewater Country Club has a habit of throwing up Monday Qualifier winners, with Canadian Brooke Henderson becoming only the second player in LPGA history to win from that position in 2015.

On the prospect of following Henderson in to the record books, Noh said, ‘That would be really, really cool. She’s doing so well right now. That’s just really cool, Monday qualifying and winning, but I don’t want to think about that tomorrow. Just go out and play my game, but really hope that’s the result.’

As a non-member of the LPGA, Noh will need a victory to lock up her Tour card for next season.

Overnight leader Hannah Green started the day five shots clear, but enters Sunday’s final round three strokes behind in solo second place after a round of 73 (+1).

Unable to produce the magic of the first two days with the putter, Green initially looked as if she would stretch her overnight lead with two birdies on the front nine, but a three-putt bogey on the 7th hole derailed her effort. Two further bogeys on the back nine so her sign for a one over par round to sit at 16-under-par.

The Australian 22-year-old, said, ‘It took me a long time to adjust to the greens, so I’m hoping this afternoon I can do a little bit more putting because I felt like I really didn’t hit it that bad.

‘The greens were a lot quicker and maybe that threw a few people off. It certainly surprised me once I got out there and I still found it really difficult, even towards the end of the round, to get the pace correct.’

Two-time champion Brooke Henderson, who earnt her first career LPGA victory here in 2015 continued her consistent form, shooting a third round 67 to get to 14-under-par.

Henderson made as many as seven birdies including a closing 3 on the par 4th 18th hole, holing from around 15ft.

The Canadian major champion who sits in T3 alongside American Brittany Altomare said,

‘I love this golf course. It’s a lot of fun for my sister and I to go out there and play, and there’s lots of birdies available. If you have a couple of rough holes, just try to stay patient and make good things happen on the birdie holes and I feel like we’ve been able to do that and capitalize on that, which is really exciting. I’m looking forward to tomorrow.’

When asked about the position Yealimi has put herself in, Henderson looked back at her victory, ‘I had a five-shot lead on Sunday, so I was just terrified. Just don’t give that away. I was just trying to make more birdies and stay ahead of the crowd. It’s really fun. It’s the opportunity of a lifetime, and you can make it easier on yourself if you can go out and play one round well, as opposed to going to Q-School and play a lot of rounds. If you can capitalize, it changes your whole life.’

Oregon State amateur Ellie Slama had the dream pairing with world No. 1 Jin Young Ko but was unable to recreate the form of the last few days in front of her adorning fan club. She sits at T47 after a third round of 74 (+2).