By Josh Thomson
HARRISON – Suzann Pettersen wasn’t keen on discussing the prospect of Sei Young Kim or any other newcomer winning her first major on Sunday. In fact, after a last-ditch birdie on No. 18 pulled her into a tie for third, the two-time major champion had her focus on another task, however monumental it may be.
“I don’t know, I’m going to try my hardest to win my third,” Pettersen said. “That’s what I’m going to try and take care of.”
She and her fellow challengers face a deficit teetering on insurmountable. After distancing themselves from the field, leader Inbee Park (-14) holds a six-shot 54-hole lead with Kim just two back in the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship.
“It’s huge,” Brooke Henderson, the 17-year old from Canada, said of the gap between the leaders and the field. “I’m not gonna lie.”
All but Pettersen, Henderson and Karrie Webb — who are tied for third at eight-under par — would need to match or better the LPGA record for largest comeback to win a major. Patty Sheehan (1983 LPGA Championship) and Webb herself (2006 Kraft Nabisco) share the record after rallying from seven down to win.
The deficit is so great, some players have abandoned hope altogether. When asked if she had a chance being nine back, Stacy Lewis was blunt.
“No, not really. I really played pretty poorly today, especially those last few holes, (and) got myself out of it,” said Lewis, who sits nine back after a third-round 73. “If you’re within probably five or six, I think you’ve got a shot. But they are playing some pretty good golf behind me, so I kind of unfortunately shot myself out of it a little bit today.”
Lewis wasn’t alone. Park, who entered in solo second, posted the best round of the day Saturday and only Shanshan Fang bested Kim’s 69 after Kim arrived at Westchester Country Club with the 36-hole lead.
With so much room between her and the leaders, Webb acknowledged that everyone other than Park and Kim will need help to win. She doesn’t believe the course will allow players to overcome the deficit by targeting birdies and eagles.
“It’s not a course that you can go for broke,” Webb said. “You still have to stick to your game plan and just hope that you’re hitting quality iron shots and giving yourself plenty of looks at birdies. Hopefully I can put together a similar round to what I had on Thursday and we’ll see what happens.”