Veteran Juli Inkster of the US and Japanese star Ai Miyazato were the joint leaders after the third round of the US$1.3 million HSBC Women’s Champions tournament in Singapore yesterday.
The duo were three-under for the day as they fired 69s, giving them a seven-under total of 209 at the LPGA’s second tournament of the year.
Two shots back were Japan’s Momoko Ueda (68) and South Korea’s Park Hee-young (69), Yoo Sun-young (71) and Han Hee-wong (71).
Cristie Kerr of the US (71), Taiwan’s golden girl Yani Tseng (71) and Norway’s Suzann Pettersen (72), three shots behind the joint leaders, are also well placed for a run at the title during the fourth round today.
Taiwan’s Candie Kung shot an even-par 72 to tie for 36th spot on three-over, while Teresa Lu carded a two-over 74 to be in joint 42nd a further shot behind.
Miyazato, in sparkling form since starting the season with a win in Thailand last week, made her move with a putt for eagle at the 16th hole to tie with Inkster at seven-under overall.
The 24-year-old Japanese star, who began the third round tied for second, started strongly with birdies on the first two holes, but bogeyed the third and ninth.
“[It was] hard work out there because pin positions were really tough, but I had a really good start because I made birdie [on] the first two holes, but after that, I stayed patient ... trying to make really safe play,” Miyazato said.
The hot conditions, which affected some of the other players, hardly bothered the Japanese star.
“I am from Okinawa, where it’s very hot, so I’m used to the heat,” she said.
Asked what a win today would mean to her, Miyazato said: “This tournament feels like a Major, so I really want this title and it will be a special title if I can win this.”
Inkster, who was also tied for second at the halfway mark, made four birdies, but bogeyed the fourth hole in what was otherwise another steady display from the 49-year-old American.
A seven-time Major winner and mother-of-two, Inkster is looking for her 32nd LPGA title and first since 2006 as she heads into today’s final round.
Should she she lift the trophy, Inkster would become the LPGA Tour’s oldest winner yet.
Despite her vast experience, Inkster downplayed her chances, but said she would give it her best shot.
“Ai won last week ... She’s got the best experience because she won last week,” Inkster said. “So I’d say, right now, I’m definitely the underdog. I don’t think anybody expects me to win, but I’m going to go out there and give it a shot.”
South Korea’s defending champion Shin Ji-yai was tied for 15th after posting a 72 for 214, five shots adrift of the joint leaders.
Mexico’s Lorena Ochoa, the world No. 1, finished the round one-over, leaving her tied in 42nd spot at a four-over 220.
ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY STAFF WRITER