American teenager Lexi Thompson overcame a 45-minute rain delay yesterday to grab a commanding three-shot lead at the Sime Darby LPGA golf tournament in Malaysia.
The 18-year-old Thompson, who turned professional in 2010, has put herself in a good position to end her title drought as she has not won on the LPGA Tour since her maiden victory at the Navistar LPGA Classic in 2011.
Thompson shot a 66 yesterday for a three-day total of 17-under 196 to overtake South Korea’s Lee Il-hee, who led on the first two days, but shot a 70 yesterday.
The Florida native could have had an even bigger lead going into the final round, but her long putts on the 14th and 18th holes were millimeters too short and she had to be content with pars.
She had a flawless round with birdies on the fourth, sixth, seventh, 10th and 13th holes.
Ranked world No. 21, Thompson has enjoyed a good season and besides her brilliant third place at the Evian Championship last month, she also had top-10 finishes at the HSBC Women’s Champions in February, the Mobile Bay LPGA Classic in May, the Marathon Classic in July and the Safeway Classic in August.
Thompson, who trailed by one after Friday’s second round, drew level when Lee bogeyed the second hole.
The American then took the outright lead when play resumed after the rain. Thompson and Lee were both on the green, but Lee could only two-putt for a par, while Thompson birdied the hole.
It was a lead she never relinquished going into the last day of the US$2 million tournament.
“I felt pretty good going into the round. I had a good practice session before my round so I felt confident before [the first tee off],” Thompson said. “This game is all about momentum. Once you get a few birdies you feel good and try to keep going. I really focus on my game and not my playing partners.”
Lee said missing a three-foot putt on the second hole made a difference, but was happy to birdie the last hole to cut the deficit from four to three strokes.
“I knew it was going to be big for tomorrow. My driver was not good, but I knew it was going to be hard to play well for four days,” she said.
Defending champion and world No. 1 Inbee Park is 14 strokes off the pace after carding her best round of the tournament with a two-under 69.