Crunch Time: You can tell Lydia Ko is having fun even when you can’t

Lydia Ko sits at the podium after posting a 2-under 70 round to take the three-day lead at the U.S. Women's Open at 7-under.

SAN MARTIN—So first of all, I cannot oversell just how amazing it is to walk around Cordevalle and hear the languages being spoken and the accents of those speaking.
Following Lydia Ko through the first nine holes gave me that treat. The crowds were tremendous. Two ladies were sporting “Go Ko” T-shirts. Everyone jockeyed for position to see the world No. 1 golfer.
There were two large crowds following the final golfers. There was our group heading up with us following the three-some of Ko, Danielle Kang and Haru Nomura.
Behind us were those following Sung Hyun Park, who had the two-day lead at 8-under.
And Ko didn’t disappoint.
She finished the day 2-under to take the three-day lead at 7-under.
Ko is probably the most even keeled golfer I’ve seen. She doesn’t do much more than tap her club if she missed hit a shot and not much more than a fist bump if she made a difficult one.
“I expect her to play well, you know. She’s a great player, obviously, and she has a great—the media always says she has a great temperament for it, which she does,” said Kris Tamulis, who sat at 2-under after Saturday. “So this is great for her. She just hits it down the middle, gets up and down, makes putts. What else do you need?”
She had a long birdie putt on No. 13 and it looked like she had just missed. But the ball kept rolling and finally fell.
Ko clearly couldn’t believe it. She looked back in shock. No smile, just disbelief.
“I put a stroke on it, and then I looked to my left and the ball was way above the hole. So I said, oh, I over read it again, huh? And that’s what I was doing the majority of the day,” Ko said. “I said, oh, man. And then I was kind of walking a little bit and then I saw the ball drop. So it kind of took me by surprise. So it was a lucky one.”
Then after going long on an approach at 14, she got up and down for par with a putt from distance.
This time she gave a strong fist pump after she saved par to keep one back of the lead.
“I almost think my par on 14 was the more meaningful putt of the two. But either way I’ll take them both,” she added.
It was a day where she needed to be consistent with how tough birdies were to come by for the leaders.
Park faltered on No. 9 with a double and bogeyed Nos. 14 and 16 to give Ko and others a chance to make a run at the lead after the third day.
Amy Yang had a chance to take over the lead, but she couldn’t find the birdie stroke.
And there was Ko who drove down the middle, hit a tremendous lag putt to set up easy pars, got out of what little trouble she did get into and finished 1-under.
“She’s so steady. There’s so many good players, but she’s something else. She’s super steady,” said Brittany Lang. “But, you know what, it’s a U.S. Open, you never know what’s going to happen, you just keep working on what got you here, and you never know. It can be tough. She doesn’t falter much, but there’s a lot of other good players up there.”
Ko said she for sure gets nervous. In fact, at her first U.S. Women’s Open, she said she was so nervous, she had a hard time lining up her putts because she was shaking so much.
Now, she said, she has learned how to deal with those emotions and harness them.
“I look a lot calmer than what goes on in the inside. I definitely do get nervous, but I think that’s part of it,” Ko said. “… I think nerves are good because it means you’re excited. You’re ready. It means a lot to you. Obviously nerves you’ve got to be able to control it. But a little bit of nerves I think is always good. And it can end up being a little bit of adrenaline. But I just try and take deep breaths.”
The eyes of the other golfers will be firmly fixed on Ko as they head into the final 18 holes of the U.S. Women’s Open looking for a little crack in the armor to exploit.
“She doesn’t make a lot of mistakes. But anybody can have a bad day. We don’t know what is going to happen,” said Cristie Kerr. “All I can do is try and control my own job, and try to go out and play smart but aggressively.”
Ko was as relaxed at the media podium holding the 54-hole lead as she was on the course the entire day.
When asked what she does the night before the final round of a major, she cracked a joke.
“I go partying. Partying all night and come straight to the course,” she said to the roars of laughter from the reporters looking on.
But she did give a serious answer, complete with a shout-out to her mother.
“I think the best thing is to not get out of your routines. It doesn’t matter if it’s the first day or the last day or the third day or an extra day,” Ko said. “I think it’s always good to stay within the routines and then that way I don’t get too ahead of myself. I love my sleep, so I know that I’ll have a good night sleep. But nothing different. Nothing special to eat. I want my mom’s cooking, and that’s it.”

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