Lydia Ko of New Zealand reacts to fans after a par putt on the 16th green during the third round of the LPGA Founders Cup at the Wildfire Golf Club on March 22, 2014. – AFP Photo
PHOENIX: New Zealand teen Lydia Ko fired a five-under par 67 on Saturday to seize a one-stroke lead after three rounds of the LPGA Founders Cup.
The South Korea-born world number four, seeking her first professional LPGA title, stood on 16-under 200 through 54 holes at Wildfire Golf Club.
Jessica Korda, the 21-year-old American daughter of retired tennis star Petr Korda; and Korean rookie Mirim Lee, in her third LPGA event and US debut; shared second on 201 with South Korean Yoo Sun-young another shot back.
Ko, 16, won back-to-back LPGA Canadian Women’s Open titles as an amateur and could have another breakthrough two weeks before the first women’s major event of the year, the Kraft Nabisco Championship.
“I’ve just got to take the positive out of it and I’m just going to play my own game,” Ko said. “If somebody goes crazy low, like shooting 10-under or 9-under or whatever, it’s not something I can control, so I’m going to control to the most what I can do.”
Ko birdied the par-5 second and eagle the par-5 fifth, then began the back nine with a birdie to solidify her run to the top of the leaderboard.
After taking her lone bogey at the 12th, Ko responded with birdies at the par-5 15th and par-3 17th to stay in command.
“Before I went out, I looked at the scores and I noticed that there were way more birdies on the front nine than the other days,” Ko said. “I personally played much better on the front nine, so I was really happy with that.”
Korda, 21, won her second LPGA title in January at the Bahamas. She also captured the 2012 Women’s Australian Open.
Korda’s second bogey-free round in a row began with a birdie and she followed with birdies at the third, fifth and par-5 11th holes, then closed with back-to-back birdies to put herself in Sunday’s final pairing with Ko.
“As long as you hit fairways and greens, you’re just fine,” Korda said. “It’s perfect scoring conditions I think, so as long as you can keep hitting good shots and giving yourself opportunities. You’re going to drop a couple, but definitely a low score is going to take it tomorrow.”
Lee, 23, has won three times on the South Korean women’s tour but could take the biggest win of her career after leading through the first and second rounds.
Lee birdied the second but took a bogey at the third. She answered with birdies at the sixth and seventh holes and another at 11 but stumbled again with a bogey at the 15th that cost her a share of the 54-hole lead.
American star Michelle Wie, Spain’s Azahara Munoz and Koreans Amy Yang, Chella Choi and Ryu So-yeon shared fifth on 203. – AFP