MIRABEL, Que. — Michelle Wie is in position for a second straight Canadian Women’s Open title, but much depends on a storm called Irene.
Wie shot 68 in warm, windless conditions in the third round Saturday to take a share of the lead with former world No. 1 Ai Miyazato and rookie Tiffany Joh going into what should be a rain-soaked final round.
Organizers are confident an early start and squeezed schedule will help get the fourth round in. But if it cannot be completed, a three-way playoff will be held between the 54-hole leaders wherever a dry enough hole can be found at Hillsdale Golf Club.
Either way, there should be very wet, very windy conditions as the remnants of Hurricane Irene move into the area — expected to be sometime in the afternoon.
“It’s something everyone’s going to play under,” said Wie, a three-stroke winner last year at the St. Charles club in Winnipeg. “I’m kind of expecting the worst.
“But whether conditions are good or bad you still have to play well and there are still players to beat and things you have to do. I don’t think it really makes that much difference.”
The only repeat winner of the Canadian Women’s Open was Pat Bradley in 1985 and 1986.
Former world No. 1 Ai Miyazato shot 71 and Joh, a 24-year-old from San Diego whose best finish this year was 25th, had the low round of the day at 65.
“It’s really exciting for me because coming into this year I had conditional status and I didn’t even know how many events I was going to play,” said Joh, who is in her eighth tournament. “Just having a chance to contend at one, that’s what dreams are made of.
“I just really excited. I’m going in with no expectations because I’ve never been in this position anywhere. Whoever I’m paired with, I’m sure I’m going to learn loads from them.”
Miyazato is ready for anything.
“Either way, we need to finish the tournament,” she said. “So I’ll just try to play my style of golf no matter what happens.”
Angela Stanford dropped a stroke when she put a tee shot into a creek on the 17th and was one shot back at 11 under 205, in a tie with Brittany Lincicome, who shot 69.
There were five players at 10 under 206 — Cristie Kerr (69), Jiyai Shin (69), Na Yeon Choi (69), Becky Morgan (70) and Song Hee Kim (71).
And Maude-Aimee Leblanc of Sherbrooke, Que., was low Canadian at 8 under 208 after a 67, which put her into a tie for 13th place, four strokes off the lead. Jessica Shepley of Oakville, Ont., and Lisa Meldrum of Montreal are at 3 under.
“Coming into the tournament, I liked the way I was playing and hitting the ball, so I felt I had as good a chance as anyone,” the 22-year-old Leblanc said.
No Canadian has won the event since Jocelyne Bourassa in 1973.
There is some doubt that the final round can be completed.
Start times have been moved up 90 minutes to 7 a.m. ET, they will play in threesomes instead of twosomes, and groups will start from both the first and tenth tees to try to get the round over by 2 p.m., when the full storm is expected to hit.
“It’s a pretty quick turnaround, but I kind of like it,” said Wie, a teenaged phenom who played in a handful of men’s tournaments but has only two wins since joining the LPGA Tour full time in 2009. “It gives me less time to think about things.”
The wind won’t bother Miyazato, a five-time winner last year whose game has only been coming together in recent weeks after a rough start to the 2011 campaign.
“I grew up in an area that was windy so I actually like playing in windy conditions, but if it rains it will definitely be difficult,” she said. “But because I’m used to those situations I don’t think there will be any problem keeping my tempo.”