Taiwanese former world No. 1 Yani Tseng (曾雅妮), trying to end a 17-month victory drought, fired a nine-under 63 on Saturday to take a three-stroke lead at the LPGA Safeway Classic.
Tseng has 15 LPGA Tour titles and spent 109 weeks at No. 1 — a run that ended in March — but she has not won an event since March last year.
Now out of the world top 10 at 15th in the rankings, the 24-year-old missed the cut in four of her previous five tournaments.
However, she looked like her old, dominant self on Saturday at Columbia Edgewater Country Club with a round that included 11 birdies and two bogeys.
Her 54-hole total of 198 broke the tournament record of 199 set by Swedish great Annika Sorenstam in 2002, when the event was played over three rounds.
“It was awesome,” Tseng beamed after coming from five adrift to take the lead. “It’s great to be back in this position. I haven’t been here for a long time.”
Thailand’s Pornanong Phatlum, who led after each of the first two rounds, carded a 71 and shared second on 201 with Norwegian Suzann Pettersen, who posted a 70.
Tseng caught fire early, with birdies at six of her first eight holes. She made the first of her two bogeys at the ninth, but bounced back with a birdie on 10.
Another bogey at the par-five 12th was followed by a birdie at the par-three 13th, which she said was key to her round.
“That’s an important putt for me and I think kind of a little turning point on the back nine,” Tseng said of her 12-footer at 13.
She added three more birdies at 15, 16 and 17 to gain breathing space on the rest of the field.
“I’ve been working really hard,” Tseng said. “I want to get back in this position, so I don’t feel any surprise, because this is what I’m working hard for.”
Pettersen, ranked No. 3 in the world, was looking forward to playing with Tseng yesterday.
“There’s no one that I’d rather see playing better and playing well again than Yani,” Pettersen said. “I know she’s been through a very rough patch. Like I said to her, she’s just got to stay patient. She’s too good not to kind of hang tough and be in the game.”