Teen golfing sensation Ariya Jutanugarn tore into a three-shot lead on home soil at the Honda LPGA Thailand yesterday, as overnight leader Stacy Lewis wobbled in a see-sawing third round.
It was another fairly uninspiring day for world No. 1 Tseng Yani of Taiwan, who made par for the day, but sits well out of contention at one-under, having failed to recover from a shocking first round.
Trailing world No. 3 Lewis by three shots at the start of play, the 17-year-old Thai delighted the crowd with seven birdies, including five in a row, to finish at a two-under 70 for the day, and 205 for the tournament with one day to go.
The chasing pack — at eight-under after three days — comprises Lewis, who posted an error-strewn four-over 76, Beatriz Recari of Spain who made par and Pak Se-ri , who leads the South Korean contingent and recorded a solid one-under.
Her compatriot Inbee Park sits at seven-under, with American Lizette Salas and South Korean Ryu So-yeon tied a shot further back — the latter providing one of the day’s highlights with a delightful chip in from the bunker.
It was a tough day to make low scores, with most cards peppered with bogeys — something Recari attributed to the windy conditions.
“On the front nine there were some tricky pins. The other nine it seemed like the greens were much faster,” the Spaniard said after her round, which left her within striking distance of Ariya.
“I would love to be in the first spot, but definitely we can reach [Ariya]. So I’m pretty confident for tomorrow and in a good position,” the 25-year-old Recari said.
The Thai goes into the final day on the back of two blistering rounds of golf which have belied her callow years and heaped pressure on her more experienced rivals.
She put Lewis on the back foot with a birdie at the par five first and the American then went on to drop two shots as her confidence appeared to ebb away.
However, Lewis’ three-shot lead was restored by the end of the front nine with a birdie boosted by a nightmare double-bogey for the Thai youngster on the ninth.
Undeterred, Ariya bounced into the back nine, notching a remarkable run of five birdies to the delight of the partisan crowd at the Siam Country Club in Pattaya.
Lewis cut an increasingly frustrated figure as she bogeyed the last three holes — a scuffed shot to the final green summing up a day littered with mistakes.
“I went to the course today [under] pressure as there were so many fans coming to see me,” Ariya said. “Not only my family, but also the entire country has hopes for me. But after I heard their hands clap, it became an inspiration.”
Taiwan’s Candie Kung was tied for 67th on 13 over.
Additional reporting by staff writer