The million-dollar march is set for Sunday at the Country Club of Charleston.

And the final round of the U.S. Women's Open should be a shootout worthy of a historic course laid out over Civil War-era fortifications.

In a tense third round on Saturday, the world's best players jockeyed for position to make a run at the first $1 million first prize in the history of the U.S. Women's Open, the oldest major championship in women's golf.

Here is the cast of (mostly unlikely) leading characters, with American Lexi Thompson the only true star among them:

• Former Duke University teammates Celine Boutier and Yu Liu, tied for the lead at 7-under-par, will play together in the final twosome. Liu fired a 5-under 66, with a rare birdie at the diabolical 11th hole, and ran off six birdies in a 13-hole stretch.

Boutier, among the leaders since her opening 67 on Thursday, held her round together with a 20-foot putt for bogey after stubbing a chip on No. 16. That was her only bogey Saturday, and the 25-year-old has been the best putter in the field this week.

The pair of Blue Devils have just one LPGA Tournament victory (by Boutier) between them, and neither has played in the final round of an Open. Boutier, born in France to Thai parents, missed the cut in two previous Opens; Liu is playing in her first.

"I know Celine will have a little more experience than I do, because she already has a win under her belt," Liu said. "I will definitely just try to embrace the moment, playing with my great friend. It's going to be a lot of fun."

Boutier used to drive the car-less Liu to dinner during their Duke days. Relations might be a bit stiffer in the final Sunday pairing of a major championship.

"I think she's going to be very focused, and so am I," Boutier said. "So I don't really expect anything less."

• Thompson, the only player in the top five who owns a major championship, finally found away to make some putts on Saturday and carded a 3-under 68 to reach 6-under, one shot back of the leaders.

The big-hitting Thompson, who has won 10 times on Tour, made a 30-footer for eagle on the par-5 15th, then knocked her approach to 4 feet for a birdie on 16. Without a birdie on a par-5 the first two days, she played the long holes in 4-under on Saturday.

Lexi Thompson sad.JPG

Lexi Thompson of the United States reacts after a putt during the 3rd round of the 74th U.S. Women's Open Championship into day three held at the Country Club of Charleston Saturday, June 1, 2019. Andrew J. Whitaker/Staff

Thompson leads the fields in greens in regulation this week, but has needed 32 putts in each of the first three rounds. If she can make her new claw-grip putting stroke work on Sunday, she might be the favorite to pocket a cool $1 million and the Harton S. Semple Trophy.

"I feel good about my putting," said Thompson, who ranks first in greens in regulation and third in driving distance this week but 49th in putting. "I just made the change (to the claw) on Tuesday, and it's been quite the change. But I feel very comfortable with it.

"Putting is all confidence and being comfortable over it. I believe I'm there."

• Thompson is tied with American veteran Jaye Marie Green and Japan's Mamiko Higa, the 36-hole leader.

Green, who had missed four straight cuts coming into the Open, shot a second-straight 68 to get to 6 under, just one shot off the lead. The 25-year-old pinched her brother/caddie Matt's cheek after a tee shot to five feet for a birdie on 16.

"I trust him more than anyone in the world on the golf course; I don't know about off the golf course," she said. "I gave him that pinch because I wanted to hit a certain shot, and he said, 'Just trust me.'

"He's my best friend off the golf course, so to have that by your side the whole way, especially on such a long day today, we just had a blast."

Higa, the 25-year-old from Okinawa, has been in the Open spotlight this week after an opening 65, the lowest round ever in an Open debut. She's held up to the pressure well with a pair of 71s to follow up. Like Green, Higa is chasing her first LPGA Tour victory.

"Recovery is going to be key," she said. "So I'm going to fill up my tank to full. Tomorrow morning, I'm going to stand up on the tee ground freshened, fully recovered."

Mamiko Higa drive.JPG

Mamiko Higa of Japan drives the ball during the 3rd round of the 74th U.S. Women's Open Championship into day three held at the Country Club of Charleston Saturday, June 1, 2019. Andrew J. Whitaker/Staff

There were scores to be had Saturday, as former South Carolina Gamecock Nanna Koerstz Madsen tied Liu for the low round of the day at 66 to move into the top 10. Mexico's Gaby Lopez and American Ally McDonald came in at 67, with Lopez three shots off the lead and McDonald five back. Seventeen players are within five shots of the lead.

But some stars did not fare as well.

American Jessica Korda bogeyed three of her first six holes, bounced back with an eagle on nine but could only manage a 1-over 72, still good for a tie for seventh. Defending champ Ariya Jutanugarn is at 1 over after a 69, tied for 27th. Two-time Open winner Inbee Park skied to a 75 and is +2, tied for 35th. And Jessica Korda's sister, Nelly, is tied for 22nd at even par after a 2-over 73.

Reach Jeff Hartsell at 843-937-5596. Follow on Twitter @Jeff_fromthePC

We're improving out commenting experience.

We’ve temporarily removed comments from articles while we work on a new and better commenting experience. In the meantime, subscribers are encouraged to join the conversation at our Post and Courier Subscribers group on Facebook.