Ranking the best — and most exciting! — ways the U.S. Women’s Open could end

Lydia Ko will begin Sunday six shots behind leader Minjee Lee.

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SOUTHERN PINES, N.C. — Three rounds are complete at the U.S. Women’s Open, and Minjee Lee is pacing the field. The 26-year-old fired her third consecutive round in the 60s on Saturday and has opened up a three-shot lead heading into the final day.

But even with a comfortable head start heading into the final 18 holes, there’s plenty of drama still on the table. It’s a major championship, after all, and anything can happen. Just last year, Lexi Thompson gave up a five-shot advantage over the final eight holes at Olympic Club to miss out on a playoff by a shot. And, coincidentally, in Lee’s major triumph at the Evian Championship last summer, she began the final round six shots behind Jeongeun Lee6’s lead before storming back on the final day.

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The U.S. Women’s Open has turned into a birdie-fest — headlined by Minjee Lee
By: Zephyr Melton

That’s the beauty of this game — there’s no running out the clock. Everyone has to play 72 holes, and your score doesn’t matter until your final putt drops.

There’s plenty of star power on the leaderboard at Pine Needles, and, if the ball breaks a certain way, a legendary finish could be in store. With that in mind, let’s get to some hypotheticals.

Here are six of the best ways this year’s edition of the U.S. Women’s Open could end.

6. Mina Harigae breaks through

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Mina Harigae has never won on the LPGA Tour, but she’s positioned herself to make a run at the Harton S. Semple Trophy tomorrow. She’ll play in the final pairing alongside Lee, and if she can erase a three-shot lead, she could become the fifth player over the last six years to earn her first LPGA win at the U.S. Women’s Open.

5. Jin Young Ko continues dominant run

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The No. 1 player in the world has seven wins worldwide over the past 12 months, but she’s in a bit of a major drought. We’re coming up on three years since her last major triumph, and at this point, it feels like she’s due. She’ll begin the day seven shots back, but with her abilities, the gap doesn’t feel quite as large. It’s certainly not out of the realm of possibility.

4. Minjee Lee captures major No. 2

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Minjee Lee has arguably been the best golfer on the LPGA Tour over the last several months, and a win at Pine Needles would put a cherry on top of her epic heater. She’s slashed the course to death through three rounds, and if she can hold on to her lead, she’ll instantly become one of the faces of the women’s game. Does she have what it takes?

3. Ingrid Lindblad makes history

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The U.S. Women’s Open hasn’t had an amateur champion in 55 years, but Ingrid Lindblad has given herself an outside shot at breaking that streak. She opened the tournament with a masterful 65 — playing alongside fellow Swede Annika Sorenstam — but has been stuck in neutral the past two days. Even without a round under par since Thursday, though, she’ll still tee it up late on Sunday afternoon. Seven shots is a big ask — especially out of a college senior — but if she’s able to accomplish the feat, it’ll go down as one of the great accomplishments in golf history.

2. Lydia Ko has a Sunday surge

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Lydia Ko was at one point the biggest star in the women’s game. And while her stock has fallen a touch since she was a world-beating teenager, Ko’s intrigue still remains. She’ll step to the 1st tee on Sunday facing a seven-shot deficit, but Sunday charges are nothing new for her. At the 2021 Chevron Championship, she set the final-round major scoring record with a Sunday 63 at Mission Hills. A chance at winning the U.S. Women’s Open might require a similarly historic round.

1. Nelly Korda make a run for the ages

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Nelly Korda is America’s star in women’s golf, and there’s no one the fans at Pine Needles will root for harder than her. A nine-shot deficit makes this possibility damn-near impossible, and might require Korda flirting with 59. But if things get really wacky and she does pull off the impossible, her star power will ascend to another level.

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Zephyr Melton is an assistant editor for GOLF.com where he spends his days blogging, producing and editing. Prior to joining the team at GOLF.com, he attended the University of Texas followed by stops with Team USA, the Green Bay Packers and the PGA Tour. He assists on all things instruction and covers amateur and women’s golf.