FORT WORTH, Texas -- Pat Bradley and Joan Pitcock, two players who contrast sharply in both age and accomplishment, matched each other stroke for stroke yesterday to remain co-leaders after three rounds of the U.S. Women's Open.
Bradley, 40, the leading career money winner in women's golf, and Pitcock, 24, who has yet to win in four years on the LPGA Tour, each shot a 1-over-par 72 over the Colonial Country Club course. They have 54-hole totals of 1-over 214.
"I'm more of a passenger: I'll let Pat drive and just try to stay with her," Pitcock said before the round, and that was just what she did.
Only a stroke back was another pairing of contrasts, Amy Alcott, 35, who led for much of the day before two late bogeys gave her a 72, and Brandie Burton, 19, who controlled her impressive power game for a 69, which included five birdies.
All told, 27 players were within seven shots of the lead going into today's final round.
Burton, a former U.S. junior champion who left Arizona State last year after her freshman year to turn professional, would be the youngest titlist in the history of the Open. Catherine LaCoste of France was 22 when she won in 1967 as an amateur.
"I'm squeezing up there," said Burton, a 5-foot-7 native of Southern California who has a second-place finish on the LPGA Tour.
"I'm really confident in my swing, and my putting has been real solid. Patience is going to be the big key."
While par remained an aspired-to standard, Colonial seemed to be slightly more susceptible to birdies yesterday, as the strong gusts that had made club selection so difficult the first two days were not a factor.
The lowest round of the tournament, a 4-under-par 67, was shot by Kris Tschetter, a fourth-year pro who played Colonial often during her college career at nearby Texas Christian University. She was at 216 for the tournament, with Meg Mallon and Chris Johnson.
"I'm going to give it my best shot," said Tschetter, who has finished second twice in her four years on the tour. "It's going to be a little different. Today there was almost no pressure."
Baltimorean Tina Barrett made a brief impact on the third roun before giving ground on the back nine and having to settle for 35-3772 and a total of 220. After 14 holes, she was 2-under for the day and within four strokes of then-leader Alcott.
Barrett's round included a birdie and two saves on the front an a birdie and three bogeys on the back. Two of the bogeys came in the last four holes where she missed greens and failed to get up and down.
Former Baltimore amateur Sarah LeBrun Ingram, now living i Nashville, Tenn., also had trouble getting home, bogeying two of the last four holes for a round of 76. She is at 224 for the tournament.
"The last four holes, the field slowed down. It became more of a struggle with concentration and patience," Ingram said. "Overall, didn't hit the ball well, but sort of got away with it. And I didn't make any putts."
Of the 95-degree heat, she said: "It felt hotter out there than it had before. I don't know whether it was or whether I was not dealing with it very well."
A pair of par-matching rounds by Vicki Goetze and Tracy Hanso pushed them into the lead for low amateur at 222, followed by Ingram and Kelly Robbins, 225.
Bradley and Pitcock, who began the day tied for the lead at even par, each birdied the 460-yard par-5 third hole to go 1-under.
But each bogeyed the par-3 fourth hole, and then Bradley RTC encountered difficulty on the dogleg right par-4 fifth hole.
After pulling her drive into a deep ditch, Bradley failed to get out of the rough with her second shot and then hit an overhanging branch with her third. She put her fourth shot on the green about 40 feet from the pin and three-putted for a triple-bogey 7.
It put Pitcock in the lead alone, until Alcott tied her with a birdie on the par-4 sixth. Pitcock bogeyed the par-4 eighth and Alcott was in the lead alone.
Once she got her first share of the lead, Alcott made nine straight pars. Playing with a badly sprained middle finger of her right hand, which she injured during a fall in the bathroom of her Santa Monica, Calif., home Monday, Alcott used her compact swing to repeatedly hit fairways and greens in regulation.
Once on the putting surfaces, which have become slow under constant watering and bumpy from spike marks, Alcott seemed almost content to two-putt for pars.
Alcott's streak of pars ended on the par-4 15th, where she hooked her approach into a green-side bunker and left her next shot in the sand. She nearly holed the following shot, as it hit the flagstick and bounced a foot away.
It put her into a tie with Bradley and Pitcock, who were each 1 under on the back nine. Alcott fell out of the lead on the par-4 17th when she hooked her tee shot into trees, punched her recovery into a bunker and failed to get up and down.
Playing in the final threesome, one group behind Alcott, Pitcock and Bradley both parred the final two holes to remain co-leaders.