Japan’s Ai Miyazato fired a blistering seven-under 65 to take a one-stroke lead over world No. 1 Yani Tseng of Taiwan in a gripping third round of the Honda LPGA Thailand tournament yesterday.
Miyazato is 14-under for the event, but hot on her heels is defending champion Tseng, who holed seven birdies to also notch a 65.
A further shot behind is second-round leader Australia’s Karrie Webb, who had to settle for a 71 yesterday, and Korean Shin Ji-yai, who fired a 68.
Another Korean, Amy Yang is in fifth place after a 68, with world No. 2 Suzann Pettersen from Norway another shot back.
Tseng was pleased with her bogey-free round, hitting 65 for the second successive day.
“I’m feeling good,” she said. “The greens are very tough, so I am pleased with my score although I missed some birdie chances.”
Tseng said she was looking forward to a great battle with Miyazato and the other contenders in the final round.
“I really want to win this tournament,” she said. “After all, I am the defending champion.”
Meanwhile, Taiwan’s Candie Kung sunk a birdie on the 18th to finish the day with a one-under 71. She sits tied for 30th with a three-round total of one-under 215.
However, compatriot Amy Hung’s struggles continued. A double-bogey on the 18th capped off a see-saw round of one-over 73 in which she holed five birdies and four bogeys before reaching the 18th. Hung is tied for 52nd at four-over 220.
Much cooler weather than the previous two days at the Siam Country Club Pattaya Old Course brought out the best in Miyazato, who sank eight birdies against one bogey.
“I enjoyed the cooler conditions,” Miyazato said. “The previous night’s rain also made the greens more receptive.”
Miyazato, who won the tournament two years ago, was brilliant around the greens and chipped in three times.
“My short game is in good shape, especially my putting,” she said. “And my chipping was pretty good too.”
Miyazato, who was in the same group as Tseng, was roared on by a large gallery of Japanese fans who also gave generous applause to the Taiwanese star.
The pair will be together again in the final round today, which will guarantee another huge gallery.
“It’s great to have lots of Japanese people cheering me in Thailand,” Miyazato said.
Webb was not at her best, but said it could have been worse.
“I was really struggling with my swing and it got worse as the round progressed, so I will take one-under,” she said. “In the end I made some good pars out there. I’m not out of it.”
Thrilling the local fans was 16-year-old Thai amateur Ariya Jutanugarn, who shot a superb 65, including two eagles and four birdies against one bogey, to move up into seventh place on nine-under.
“When I suffered a bogey at the sixth I thought I’d be happy with an even-par round,” the calm Thai teenager said. “But then came the two eagles in four holes and that gave me a big boost of confidence.”
Additional reporting by Staff writer