US Women's Open Golf: Tournament Is Na Yeon Choi's to Lose with 6-Stroke Lead

Steven Cook@@stevencookinFeatured Columnist IVJuly 8, 2012

KOHLER, WI - JULY 07:  Na Yeon Choi of South Korea hits her tee shot on the 18th hole during the third round of the 2012 U.S. Women's Open on July 7, 2012 at Blackwolf Run in Kohler, Wisconsin.  (Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images)
Scott Halleran/Getty Images

After an insane third round at the U.S. Women's Open at Blackwolf Run in Kohler, Wis., golfer Na Yeon Choi has the championship in her firm grasp and should have little trouble winning her first major. 

Choi shot seven-under par on Saturday for a score of 65 while the rest of the field struggled, allowing her to jump out to a six-stroke lead with eight under par for the tournament.

The South Korean tied the lowest third-round score in the event's history with her superb showing that all but sealed her championship.

Perhaps as important as Choi's emergence Saturday was the poor round by Michelle Wie. Despite shooting a 66 on Friday to come within one shot of the lead held then by Suzann Pettersen, Wie fell to over par with a six-over 78 that was a vast 13 shots worse than Choi's day.

Wie has been the sport's most well-known figure since her emergence as a teenager, and the 22-year-old's absence from the top of the pack on Sunday will undoubtedly help alleviate some of the pressure on Choi.

The leader after two days of competition, Pettersen also fell from contention with a 78 on Saturday. She's just tied for seventh, but is nine shots out of the lead.

Although Choi is enjoying a seemingly insurmountable lead at the moment, nothing is out of the question given the sporadic nature of this year's event. 

The biggest threat to Choi's title chances won't come from Wie. In fact, they'll come from another South Korean.

Choi's fellow countrywoman, Amy Yang, was the only golfer other than Choi that shot under a 71 on Saturday and is in second place with a two-under score for the tournament.

The two South Koreans were two of just five players who shot under par on Saturday as well.

Even though there are several birdies to be taken on this Blackwolf Run course and anything still can happen, the scoreline and her performance Saturday suggests that Choi's first major is all but locked up.