With 22 players within five shots of the lead heading into the final round of the 2012 Wegmans LPGA Championship, it's anyone's golf tournament to win.
Third-round leader Eun-Hee Ji seems to have figured out the difficult Locust Hill Country Club track—treacherous with its narrow fairways and thick rough. After an opening round 75 on Thursday, Ji has fashioned rounds of 68 and 69 to lead by one shot at four-under-par after 54 holes.
Of course, whether she has the mettle to maintain that level of play under the pressure of a major championship Sunday remains to be seen. Ironically, though, her best finish this year (T11) was at the season's first major, the Kraft Nabisco Championship, so she might have the experience she'll need to play well when it matters the most.
Veteran Australian golfer Karrie Webb, a seven-time major championship winner, fired the low round of the tournament on Saturday with an outstanding four-under-par 68 to put herself one shot from the lead. That type of score is an excellent example of how a similar effort by Webb—or another player within striking distance of the lead on Sunday—could produce a major victory.
Paula Creamer got her score to four-under-par at one point during the third round but stumbled down the stretch with bogeys on two of her final three holes—out in 34, in with a disappointing 39—to settle for a one-over-par round of 73 to fall back to one-under-par, but still just three shots behind Ji.
Let's take a closer look at Creamer and five other players within five shots of the lead who have a great chance to win on Sunday.
David Kindervater is a Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report. All quotations in this article were obtained via press conferences at the Media Center at the Wegmans LPGA Championship.
Paula Creamer knows how to win a golf tournament where par or a few shots under par is a good score. And in a major championship where an even finish is oftentimes considered a good showing, Creamer is as safe a pick as anyone.
At the 2010 US Women's Open at Oakmont, Creamer was the only player under par after three rounds. She proceeded to take her three-shot lead and increase it to four on Sunday to capture her first major.
It was by no means a walk in the park, as they say, but she did save her very best for last, shooting a 69 on Sunday when the pressure was really on her to prove she could win a major.
Granted, in this situation, she will have to come from a few shots back if she's going to win her first LPGA Championship, but she has already proven she can handle the heat.
Creamer is also playing with a lot of emotion this week. She lost her grandfather back in March. The gentleman Creamer called her biggest fan has always attended this event to watch her play.
"This is by far the hardest year for me with 'Pops' not being here," she said. "I've been kind of dreading this week in my mind ever since he passed away, just coming here. He has never missed this event. That's kind of the hard part for me mentally is just getting in my own world every time I walk up to the 18th green. I get tears in my eyes because I see him right behind the green. But that's part of life and hopefully this is my year."
Creamer is beloved here and she will be the fan favorite on Sunday. She wants very badly to channel her feelings into solid play for a heartfelt and emotional victory.
It's no secret that Stacy Lewis has won two of the past three events on the LPGA Tour—the Mobile Bay LPGA Classic and the ShopRite LPGA Classic. She was the hottest player in the field entering this LPGA Championship, and she has the experience of winning a major at the 2011 Kraft Nabisco.
So, what's not to like about her chances on Sunday? She's just two shots off the lead, and she enjoys playing from behind the leaders.
"It's been fun to ride the momentum," Lewis said after her round on Saturday. "Whatever the course gives me, I try and take it. It's a lot easier to come from behind. I actually like sneaking up on everyone."
With her recent victories on the LPGA Tour, it's hard to imagine that Lewis, the No. 3 player in the world according to the Rolex Rankings, would surprise anyone with a win here. But if that mentality works for her, she's in a perfect position to make a run at her second major in as many years.
When I interviewed Suzann Pettersen last year, she said she wanted to be the best female golfer in the world. If the current Rolex Rankings are an accurate indicator of who really is the best, she's in the conversation at No. 5.
A win here at the LPGA Championship on Sunday would be a huge step in the right direction for her to realize that dream.
Pettersen has been steady throughout her three rounds at Locust Hill with scores of 71, 72 and 71. That's a potential recipe for victory. Now just two shots off the lead at two-under-par, she has put herself in a position to win her second major after a five-year drought.
Pettersen has the grit, determination and killer instinct to get it done. If you look at how she played under intense pressure at last year's Solheim Cup, making birdies on the final three holes to secure a valuable point and seal the victory for the European team, it's clear she has what it takes to win big golf tournaments.
Before the LPGA Championship began a few days ago, Cristie Kerr admitted she doesn't like where she currently stands in the big picture of women's professional golf. And she wants to do something about it. Soon.
Well, she'll have her chance after a third round 70 put her back in contention.
Kerr's last LPGA Tour victory was here at Locust Hill two years ago when she ran away from the rest of the field with a then-tournament record 19-under-par score and a 12-shot margin of victory.
She's the only player at even-par—four shots behind the leader.
"I’m ready to make a Sunday charge,” Kerr said. “I definitely am. I think I’m in a perfect position to put all the pressure on them in the last couple groups and maybe I can post a number."
When you combine her experience as a veteran player and a major champion, she has a lot working in her favor for a return—at long last, by her standards—to the winner's circle.
Every great golfer has that moment when they emphatically introduce themselves to their peers—and the world—with a victory that proves they've arrived.
This could be Jennifer Johnson's moment.
After three rounds at the LPGA Championship, Johnson is one under par and just three shots from the top of the leader board.
Johnson made a run at the lead late in her third round with an eagle at the par five 17th hole to get her to three under par, but she gave that momentum right back with a double-bogey at No. 18.
If she can get past that disappointing finish, she's still very much in the hunt.
There's no question Johnson will be a dark horse contender on Sunday. Other than ousting Paula Creamer from the Sybase Match Play Championship a few weeks ago, she hasn't done anything especially outstanding in 2012. But she's making cuts and making money. And she's improving, finishing in the top 20 in her past two outings.
Johnson might have exactly what it takes to win a major. We're about to find out.
Before her playoff victory at the 2011 US Women's Open, not many people knew who So Yeon Ryu was.
That's understandable. Ryu is an LPGA Tour rookie this year, so we're still just beginning to realize how talented this Korean born player really is.
How talented? Very.
In addition to her surprising US Open win last year, Ryu has kept the momentum going with five, yes five top-five finishes in 2012. She's the frontrunner for the Rolex Rookie of the Year award, and if she can muster a low score on Sunday, she'll become a major champion for a second time.
Ryu will need to come from five shots back to accomplish that, but it's far from out of the question for a player with her talent.