There have been historic comebacks at the championship, the largest in 1983 when Hall of Famer Patty Sheehan shot a final-round 63 to erase an a seven-shot deficit and win her first of six majors.
“You just stick to your game plan and don’t stray away from it because it’s very easy to do when you’re draining putts on top of each other,” Korda said.
Salas said, “I’m more of, let’s just play boring golf and let’s give ourselves good looks at birdie.”
The gauntlet was tossed on the first hole. Korda threw her approach shot to within five feet of the challenging back-right hole location, picking up where she left off after Friday’s dart-like round. But Salas rolled in a 35-foot left-to-right breaker for a birdie, and the race was on.
“I think when you get in that mindset of kind of egging each other on, it’s fun, but it’s also nerve-racking,” Korda said. “Your adrenaline definitely gets up there.”
Korda birdied the second hole, too, giving her eight consecutive birdies, dating to Friday, the best stretch in a major championship, only to have Salas do the same. And when Salas successfully negotiated another long birdie, this one from 30 feet on the third hole, the pair was tied.
After both made birdie at the fifth hole, Korda cooled off. She went eight holes before her next birdie. Salas kept grinding and turned in a 30 on the front nine to open a two-shot lead, giving one back with a hiccup on the 10th hole when she had to layup short of the green because of a teeter-totter lie next to a fairway bunker.
“I didn’t realize I shot 30 until I signed my scorecard,” Salas said. “Obviously it’s fun when you play like that. I think it’s good momentum going into (Sunday).”
Although the two combatants were going head-to-head, they were doing it in different ways. Korda was consistently outdriving Salas by 20-plus yards, but the veteran continued to hit it close and make putts. Korda averaged 1.81 putts per green in regulation, but Salas averaged 1.54 and needed only 25 total putts – six fewer than Korda.
“I can putt,” Salas said. “Just get me on the green, and we can work from there. That’s pretty much the game plan. I think I’m really comfortable with my fairway woods and my hybrids.”
The biggest threat could be the long-hitting Tavatanakit, who won the ANA Inspiration, the season’s first major. She was encouraged by her bogey-free round and made birdie on four of the final five holes.
“Not going to lie, I like the feeling of just chasing,” she said. “Regardless of what happens (Sunday), I feel like I already have a solid week. I feel like I really have proved to myself that I can play out here under any circumstances.”
Riverdale’s Mariah Stackhouse, the lone Georgian remaining in the field, shot a 74 and is tied for 42nd at 2 over. After a shaky start, Stackhouse went on a run that saw her birdie the final three holes (she started on the back nine) and two of the first three on her second nine. An ugly triple bogey at the par-3 fourth hole derailed her round.