New Zealand teenager Lydia Ko topped the crowded leaderboard in the JTBC Founders Cup, pulling ahead with two late birdies on Saturday.
The 16-year-old shot a five-under 67 to reach 16-under 200 at Desert Ridge. She tapped in for birdie on the par-five 15th after missing an 8 foot eagle putt and took the outright lead with a 10-footer on the par-three 17th.
Jessica Korda and Mirim Lee were a stroke back, and a dozen players were within four shots on a course that gave up a 63 and two 64s in the third round.
“Obviously, there’s going to be some nerves,” Ko said. “Of course, that’s always there.”
Ko was three-under on Wildfire’s Arnold Palmer-designed front nine on Saturday after playing it in even par the first two days. She eagled the par-five fifth after hitting a 5-wood to 7 feet. She is 13-under on the Nick Faldo-designed back nine, where the tournament will be decided.
Ko tapped in for birdie on the par-five 15th after missing an eagle try and took the outright lead with a 10-footer on the par-three 17th.
“You never know until the last hole, last putt,” Ko said.
Ko won the Canadian Women’s Open as an amateur the past two years and took the Swinging Skirts World Ladies Masters in December last year in Thailand in her second start as a professional. She has five victories in pro events, also winning in Australia and New Zealand.
Ko will play alongside Korda. They also played together in the first two rounds.
Korda, the winner in the season-opening event in the Bahamas, birdied the final two holes for her second bogey-free 66 in a row.
Lee, the leader after each of the first two rounds, bogeyed the 15th and shot 70. She is making her third start on the LPGA Tour after winning three times on the Korean LPGA.
Sun Young-koo, the 2012 Kraft Nabisco winner, was 14-under after a 68.
Michelle Wie had a 67 to join Azahara Munoz, So Yeon Ryu, Amy Yang and Chella Choi at 13 under.
Munoz, coming off a playoff loss to Paula Creamer three weeks ago in Singapore, shot 64 — one of 19 rounds of 67 or better in the 74-player field on Saturday. Yang had a 67, and Ryu and Choi shot 68.
Taiwan’s Candie Kung shot a 68 for 10-under.
Additional reporting by staff writer