Tokyo: Indian golfer Aditi Ashok carded a three-under 67 in the third round to hold on to the second position and remain in strong contention for the country's maiden Olympic medal in the sport here on Friday.
The Bengalurean, who has her mother, Maheshwari, on the bag, shot five birdies against two bogeys and moved to 12-under, three strokes adrift of leader Nelly Korda of USA who carded a two-under 69 in the penultimate round.
Four players — New Zealand's Lydia Ko (66), Australia's Hannah Green (67), Demark's Kristine Pederson (70) and Japan's Mone Inami (68) — shared the third spot with totals of 10-under 203.
Aditi fired five birdies and two bogeys on the day. She was three-under after picking up shots on fourth, sixth and seventh holes before bogeys on ninth and 11th pulled her back.
However, she made amends with birdies on the 15th and 17th to keep herself in the hunt for a historic medal.
The other Indian golfer in fray, Diksha Dagar, remained in the lower half of the leaderboard after an erratic one-over 72, her third successive over-par card of the week.
Dagar, who started from the back-nine, managed one birdie against two bogeys in her round on Friday.
This is Aditi's second Olympic appearance. She had finished tied 41st in the 2016 Rio de Janeiro edition.
Aditi said since she played only a few tournaments in May-June and also got infected by the coronavirus, has probably lost distance off the tee.
Yet her short game has helped her.
"I didn't really have my best, especially on the long holes with the long approaches where I wasn't as consistent. So, yeah, definitely it was a good day and I did not make as many bogeys as I could have," she said.
"My putting wasn't as good today as the first two days. So those couple par putts that were like the one on 12 and the one on 18, helped because I knew my putting wasn't that good today compared to the first two."
Aditi said she recovered from COVID-19 but it did affect her health
"It took a little bit of strength out of me. I was never this short. I was always short but not like 50 behind Nelly and 50 behind Nanna. But apart from the distance this year has been kind of the best I've had with my short game."
Aditi was also candid about the following golf back home.
"Nobody really follows golf as much. It's not that they know about it and don't follow it, it's just they don't know much about the sport to know that a major is more prestigious than the Olympics.
"And whenever the Olympics comes around it's always because we had a lot of sports where we were actually really good, like hockey, where we had, we used to win gold medals all the time.
"With golf being in (at Olympics) the second time I think people are a lot more aware and trying to follow it a lot more."
The tournament faces possible interruption and the final round could even be cancelled because of the forecast of a tropical storm on Saturday and maybe even Sunday.
The organisers have brought forward the tee times for the final round and have the option of playing on Sunday morning if weather permits.
They are hopeful of completing 72 holes, but if 72 holes cannot be completed, the tournament will revert to being a 54 holes tournament.
That would mean Aditi will have silver behind Nelly Korda's gold.