British men's golf is supposed to be stronger going into the Masters than it's ever been, although it was a British female who was threatening to rewrite the history books last night. Karen Stupples was at the head of the Kraft Nabisco Championship in California, trying to win the second major of her career.
If the English golfer could prevail, it would mean that Britain would be holding two of the four women's majors for the first time. Catriona Matthew won the Women's British Open at Lytham last summer and Stupples has clearly been inspired by her compatriot's success. She was one stroke ahead and in her best form since lifting the British Open in 2004 at Sunningdale.
Stupples fired a four-under-par 68 on Saturday at Mission Hills Country Club in California to move to 10-under par. She had partnered Lorena Ochoa, but outplayed and outscored the world No 1. Ochoa was three shots off Stupples following a 71 and was tied for fourth with the halfway leader, Kim Song-hee of Korea.
The 36-year-old could not imagine being more nervous ahead of the final day than she had been before the third round. "Honestly, I don't think the nerves could be any worse than they were this morning," she said. "So in a way, I'm excited about that fact because I know that I was able to play this morning. And so all that it will do is make me get out there and enjoy it. I mean, look who I've got chasing me. How could I not enjoy that? That's the bottom line, that's just fantastic. I'm more excited than I can tell you."
Stupples' third round, which featured six birdies and three bogeys, placed her one shot ahead of Norway's Suzann Pettersen and Yani Tseng of Taiwan, who both had five-under 67s after an exciting series of closing holes on the Dinah Shore Championship course. "I think I got off to a bit of a great start on the front nine and I had a good lead, and the next time I look up, I'm like, 'oh, wow, Yani and Suzann and a few others are all trying to make a move'," added Supples. "And I was really excited – I mean, why not?"
In truth, the woman of Kent was just excited to be in contention. She has yet to win in America and vowed to rededicate herself to her profession in the close season. "I told my husband and my coach that I was sick of making up the numbers," she said. "I know I have the ability to win. It's just a case of going out there, working hard and proving it. Everything seems to be working out well, on and off the course. This is the first year my husband hasn't caddied for me, but he is here and looking after our little boy. Logan, our three-year-old, is fantastic. He's an absolute joy, and he's really fulfilled us. But he's not easy. We've had many sleepless nights."
Meanwhile, Stupples' fellow Briton, Lee Westwood, was trying to win his first PGA Tour title in a dozen years at the Houston Open and so become the new world No 2 in the process. Westwood was three off the lead going into last night's final round. On Saturday, he produced a remarkable fightback from a woeful opening nine. He went out in 41, but came back in 31, courtesy of five birdies. Anthony Kim also roused himself from a sluggish start to shoot a third-round 69 for a share of the lead with another American, Bryce Molder.