The 28-year-old from Bangkok started the day one ahead of England’s Georgia Hall, Australia’s Minjee Lee and Japan’s Mamiko Higa and she will go into the final day of the championship on 13-under par 203 and with the same advantage over 2017 Ladies European Tour No. 1 Hall after the 22-year-old from Bournemouth brought the large gallery round the last green to their feet after holing for birdie from 15-feet behind the hole.
Phatlum is bidding to become just the second Thai golfer to win a major after Ariya Jutanugarn won the 2016 Ricoh Women’s British Open and the 2018 US Women’s Open and she showed no outward sign of nerves as she birdied four of her first ten holes before dropping her sole shot of the day on the par-3 12th.
She bounced back with five straight pars before holing a treacherous four-foot putt for another par on the last to complete her third round in the 60s of the week.
“I’m still nervous now,” said the 5-foot 3-inch Thai who to date has missed just four fairways all week and is averaging over 80 percent of greens in regulation. “I’ve been singing Thai songs on the golf course to keep myself calm and that’s what I will be doing tomorrow.”
Home favourite Hall did not drop a single shot in opening rounds of 67 and 68 and she was to extend that sequence by a further 12 holes before a bogey on the par-4 13th saw her drop momentarily three shots behind Phatlum.
However she battled back with three birdies and a bogey over the last four holes to match Phatlum’s 69 and finish on 12-under par 204.
“It was much harder than the first two days,” admitted the English woman. “My long game wasn’t quite on it today but my putter saved me and I’m just going to go out there and try to play every shot as it comes tomorrow.
“I was in the final round last year (at Kingsbarns) and that is definitely going to help me,” she added. “I think I will be a bit more relaxed because I’ve been there before but it won’t be easy because it’s the British Open.
“I have one day left and I’m going to give it all I’ve got.”
Asian golfers have won six out of the last eight Ricoh Women’s British Opens and there is every chance it could happen again with two-time major winner So Yeon Ryu from South Korea carding a five under par 67 to claim third place on 205 and another Korean Sung Hyun Park in a tie for fourth place with Japan’s Mamiko Higa and Australia’s Minjee Lee on 206.
“I’m really pleased with the way I played out there and hopefully I can also bring my “A” game tomorrow,” said Ryu, who won her first major at the 2011 US Women’s Open and followed that six years later with a victory in the ANA Inspiration.
“Golf is not just about technique. I think it’s more about believing in yourself and I’m really confident about my game right now. I spoke to my psychologist before the weekend and we agreed that we’d to commit to what we’re going to hit and not look back.”
The race for the first place prize looks certain to go right to the wire with Canada’s Brooke Henderson firing a 69 to share seventh place with America’s Mina Harigae on eight under par 208 and a resurgent Lydia Ko moving up into a tie for Yu Liu, Teresa Lu and Phoebe Yao one shot further behind.