After 2 straight bogeys, Stupples has 6 straight birdies

CHERRY HILLS VILLAGE, Colo. -- After consecutive bogeys on the front nine, Karen Stupples told herself to be patient, the birdies would come.

Did they ever.

Stupples had birdies on six straight holes in the middle of the third round at the U.S. Women's Open on Saturday, putting herself in position to add another major title to the Women's British Open she won last year.

Stupples ended the day with a three-putt bogey on the difficult par-4 18th but finished 1-over and was tied for the lead with teens Michelle Wie and Morgan Pressel.

"The bogey can come very quickly out here and I had to try and maintain my patience because I was 3-over par," Stupples said. "I know that I'm capable of making at least somewhere between two and five birdies a round."

She did more than that.

It started on the uphill, par-4 ninth hole, where Stupples hit 3-wood off the tee and knocked a 7-iron to 20 feet. A five-footer at 10 followed, and then she got up and down from a bunker on the par-5 11th. Stupples hit it to eight feet on the par-3 12th and five feet at No. 13 and was seven feet away on the difficult 14th.

And it could have been seven birdies in a row. Stupples' putt at No. 15 was on line but came up just short.

"I wimped out," she said.

It was still good enough to put Stupples in the final group with Pressel for Sunday's final round. And of the eight players within two shots of the lead, she's the only one who knows how to close out a major.

The 32-year-old Brit proved that at last year's Women's British, when she opened eagle-double eagle and shot a record-tying 64 in the final round to hold off Rachel Teske.

Not bad for someone who didn't turn pro until she was 25 and toiled on the LPGA Tour in relative anonymity for five years before her breakthrough in 2004.

"Every year I have made little improvements in my game to try and see where I am and try to get better," Stupples said. "Last year, it just happened in a big flash. All of a sudden I went 'Poof!' and got better very quickly."

Nervous Perrot
Nicole Perrot was the surprise leader after a 1-under 70 in the second round moved her two shots ahead of Michelle Wie and Lorena Ochoa.

The pressure of leading the U.S. Open seemed to get to her.

Perrot opened the third round by missing a short putt for bogey and had four more bogeys on the front nine to turn at 6-over 41. The 2001 U.S. Junior champion from Chile gathered herself and shot 1-over on the back side but finished the round 5-over -- four shots out of the lead.

"The first two days I really had two solid rounds, but today I didn't hit it as well and was more in the rough," Perrot said. "I had putts that didn't make, and it was just one of those days."

Bad timing
The fiinal group of Michelle Wie and Nicole Perrot spent a good portion of the front nine on the clock because of slow play.

Tom Meeks, senior director of rules and competition, was in a cart monitoring the group from the fifth fairway when he said that Wie had 40 seconds to hit the shot. Meeks was counting the seconds over a minute when Wie backed off her 5-iron.

"Doesn't matter now. It's a bad time," Meeks said, before speeding off to tell Wie of her bad time.

"I didn't think I was playing that slow," Wie said. "He told me I had a time of 1 minute, 37 seconds. After that, I was running around. I was out of breath."

Perrot didn't handle it much better. She had four bogeys in six holes after learning they were on the clock.

"It was kind of tough to get focused [being timed] all those times," she said.

Mallon's misfortunes
After starting her round with a bogey, defending champion Meg Mallon used birdies on the seventh and 10th holes to get to 2-over -- just two shots off the lead.

Then disaster struck at the par-3 12th.

Mallon hit a 5-iron, thinking it would be the perfect club to put ball in the middle of the green. Instead, it hit into the bank fronting the green and hung up in the rough just beyond a pond.

Mallon tried to hit a pop shot with a wedge from there, but the ball hit into the hill and rolled right. Another attempt, same result.

Mallon finally got it on the green with her fourth shot and two-putted for a triple-bogey 6. She ended up with a third-round 75 and finished 7-over overall, six shots behind the leaders.

"I was going along really nicely and had a lot of momentum going and had a big momentum buster," she said. "It was really disappointing because I felt like my game was in control and I was where I wanted to be in the tournament."

Co-leader Morgan Pressel got a scare on the 18th hole and it had nothing to do with golf. Walking next to the lake along
the left side of the fairway, the 17-year-old jumped toward her caddie when a swan sitting on the shore flapped its wings. "I wasn't paying attention and all of a sudden a saw this white thing out of the corner of my eye." ... Denver Broncos coach Mike
Shanahan was in the gallery watching Annika Sorenstam. ... Colin Cann, Paula Creamer's regular caddie, rode around in a cart to watch her play the third round. He's been off the bag since breaking his ankle at Kingsmill last month.