In another life that would not involve leading the Ricoh Women's British Open with a round to play, Yani Tseng might have been a kindergarten teacher. Either that or a pool player. "I am a very good pool player," Tseng revealed. But in her actual day job she displayed the commendable patience that would have been an essential asset had she being dealing with a roomful of tiny terrors.
At Royal Birkdale the terrors are considerably larger, especially on a day of challenging links weather, but Tseng handled them all perfectly before sealing a third consecutive 68 with an eagle at the last. Tseng did not drop a shot and stayed calm, singing to herself and enjoying the larger crowds, despite her first birdie of the day not coming until the 13th.
Another came at the 15th and then a brilliant eight-iron approach at the 18th set up the eagle from 20 feet. "My caddie said, 'Let's hole this one,' and I thought he meant I couldn't hole it so I wanted to make it even more," she said. It got Tseng to 12 under par and re-established a four-stroke lead. Her closest pursuer now is the Australian Katherine Hull, who birdied the last five holes for a 66.
There are players who make a lot of noise in women's professional golf and one of them, Michelle Wie, was out considerably earlier than Tseng. A 71 left the superstar from Hawaii at one over par and unlikely to break her streak of not having finished in the top 10 of a major in the past four years.
Wie and Tseng clashed in their amateur days. As professionals, Wie has earned significantly more cash but has only one victory. Tseng has three on the LPGA Tour, including
two major championships, plus the Australian Open title she won at the start of the year.
With both Annika Sorenstam and Lorena Ochoa retired, the women's game is trying to get used to a new elite. Korea's Jiyai Shin is the world No 1 and a charming role model for her many compatriots, while Japan's Ai Miyazato, and Cristie Kerr and Paula Creamer of the US, winners of the previous two majors, are also big shots.
Tseng, a 21-year-old from Taiwan, most certainly does not make a big noise – except with her golf. On Thursday she hit all 18 greens in regulation. She said links golf keeps her interested and when she is interested, the results tend to be good. This was the first time she had gone into the weekend leading a major but you would never know it. She has made only one bogey in three rounds.
It looked as if Tseng would be duelling another of this year's major winners. Kerr, winner of the LPGA Championship in June by a colossal 12 strokes, had three birdies going out but then stalled when she three-putted from just off the green twice in a row and finished with a 72 to be eight back.
Only Morgan Pressel, an early starter with a 65 that was remarkable for beginning with two bogeys, scored lower than Hull's 66. The Aussie, who has never been in this position in a major before, made sure she took advantage of the par fives, and three of them coming in the last four holes contributed to the hot finish. "It is very exciting," said Hull. "I played with Yani in the final round in Australia and know I'll have to play well."
Sorenstam is Tseng's mentor and she moved into the Swede's former house late last year. The trophy room has so far been under-utilised compared with the previous owner, but that may be about to change.
England's Ross Fisher will take a one-shot lead into today's final round of the Irish Open at Killarney after shooting a level-par third-round 71. Fisher built a big lead after opening his round with four birdies in seven holes. However, he shot a double-bogey six at the par-four eighth hole, after he put his approach to the green into the water. He dropped two more shots late in his round to drop back to 12 under.
That gave renewed hope to his playing partner, Francesco Molinari, who at one stage was six strokes off the lead. But after a 69 the Italian found himself just one shot behind Fisher. A stroke further back in third place is Spain's Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano, who shot a three-under 68 to reach 10 under.
"I am a little bit disappointed," Fisher said. "And I hadn't realised how far I was ahead at the start of the back nine. I certainly didn't realise I was six ahead. But I am still leading."