Without question, England's Jodi Ewart Shadoff was the unknown interloper in the final group of Saturday's third round of the U.S. Women's Open, but the third-year LPGA player wasn't intimidated by World No. 1 Inbee Park or No. 15 I.K. Kim. If anything, No. 81 Shadoff was more like Park's shadow as she matched the tournament leader stroke for stroke through the first 15 holes at even par to that point.
At the par-4 14th, Shadoff watched Park make a near-impossible downhill 30-footer for birdie, then ran in her own 15-footer to keep pace three shots behind. "I actually said to my caddie and I.K.'s caddie before she even hit it, 'She's going to make that,' " Shadoff said. "After she made it, I just told myself, 'Hole this and stay with her.' "
Shadoff stumbled with bogeys at the 16th and 17th to shoot 2-over-par 74 that left her at 3-under 213 for 54 holes. She's in third place six strokes behind Park and three behind Kim, but she's one of only five players under par heading into the final round.
"I'd be lying if I said I wasn't nervous on the first tee, but the first couple holes just steadied me down and I actually had a lot of fun out there," Shadoff said. "It was a good experience. I just tried to stay with her and kind of had a little meltdown at the end, but I'm excited for tomorrow."
Shadoff was forced to play 21 holes Saturday because she still was on the course with three holes left in the second round when play was suspended Friday night because of fog. "The most difficult part was waking up at 4:30," Shadoff said. "I'm not really a morning person, but I played the first three holes pretty good and went back home and took a nap."
In fact, she recorded two pars and a birdie at the 18th for a 3-under 69 that put her into the final threesome. Shadoff has just three top-10 finishes in her brief pro career, but one of those was a seventh-place in the Kraft Nabisco Championship, which was this season's first major.
"I was up there at the Kraft this year and the Kia last year, so all of this is a great experience for me," Shadoff said. "It's what I need to be able to win in the future.''
Shadoff began this season by making the cut in the first 10 tournaments. But she came into the Open on a downer after missing two straight cuts.
"Mentally, I wasn't all there," Shadoff said. "But something clicked in the early part of this week with my swing, and I started to get a lot of confidence."
Logic says it's unlikely anyone is going to catch Park, who is going for her third straight major title and is the No. 1 putter on the tour. In contrast, Shadoff is 139th in putting average, but she's also 10th in driving distance and sixth in greens hit in regulation, two qualities that help in a U.S. Open.
As Shadoff said, "Anything can happen on the back nine of a major championship . . . I've got everything to play for tomorrow."