Kuala Lumpur: American youngster Lexi Thompson is on the brink of her second LPGA title after opening up a three-shot cushion at the Sime Darby LPGA Malaysia on Saturday.
The 18-year-old looked at her confident best as she shot a five-under 66 to overtake South Korea’s Ilhee Lee after the third round of US$2 million tournament at the prestigious Kuala Lumpur Golf & Country Club.
Thompson had five birdies in her flawless round for a 17-under 196 total as Lee mixed three birdies with two bogeys to return with a 70. World number two Suzann Pettersen is a further three strokes back after a 67, taking a share of third alongside China’s Shanshan Feng of China.
Sweden’s Anna Nordqvist shot a 65 to make a charge up the leaderboard, climbing from joint 29th to a tie for fifth alongside Karine Icher of France at 204.
Even a brief suspension in play due to bad weather was not going to hold the lanky Thompson back from her third-round surge that featured another putting master-class.
“I just committed to every shot, trusting that I had it and being positive with it. The game is all about momentum. Once you make a few birdies, you feel good and just try to keep that confidence going. You try to make birdies when you can and par holes that have tough pin locations,” noted Thompson, who returned to a conventional putting style this week.
“Every player wants to go into the final round with a lead. But you just have to take one shot at a time and not get ahead of yourself. Obviously, you know that the other players are going to go low, so it’s crucial to play smart out there – knowing when to be aggressive and where it’s better to just play to the middle of the green and take a two-putt,” added the 2011 Navistar Classic champion.
Lee, aiming to become the fourth consecutive Korean to triumph at the event, was left frustrated as her game failed to click. “I think I tried to hard to make everything happen but I knew it’s hard to play good, four days in a row,” noted the 25-year-old.
“The birdie on 18th was big for tomorrow because it keeps me with three shot off Lexi [Thompson] and I didn’t lose too much of ground. Just going to go out and have fun tomorrow,” shared Lee.
Leading final round scores
196 – Lexi Thompson (USA) 67-63-66
199 – Ilhee Lee (KOR) 64-65-70
202 – Suzann Pettersen (NOR) 67-68-67, Feng Shanshan (CHN) 67-65-70
204 – Anna Nordqvist 68-71-65, Karine Icher (FRA) 70-66-68
205 – Pornanong Phatlum (THA) 71-66-68, Jodi Ewart Shadoff (ENG) 66-70-69, Ryu So Yeon (KOR) 70-65-70, IK Kim (KOR) 67-66-72
206 – Park Hee Young (KOR) 69-67-70, Brittany Lang (USA) 65-71-70