American Lizette Salas fired a six-under-par 65 on Saturday to grab a three-shot lead over Park Hee-young at the LPGA Kingsmill Championship.
Salas, seeking a first career victory on the LPGA Tour, had a 54-hole total of 13-under 200, with second-round leader Park on 203 after a third-round 69.
American Stacy Lewis and New Zealand teenager Lydia Ko lent intrigue to a group on 205. The two, who can each claim the world No. 1 ranking from South Korean star Inbee Park this week, were joined at eight-under by Australian Katherine Kirk.
Lewis carded a third-round 70, Ko posted a 67 and Kirk carded her second-straight 68.
Former world No. 1 Yani Tseng of Taiwan shot a 68 to head a group on 206, along with Thailand’s Pornanong Phatlum (66) and American Lexi Thompson (70).
Organizers got the third round in despite falling behind schedule after a weather delay of more than three hours on Friday.
Park Hee-young remained atop the leaderboard after completion of the second round on Saturday morning with a one-stroke lead over Lewis, Salas and Brittany Lang.
Ko moved up from a tie for 12th after the second round to her share of third. The 17-year-old needs a victory this week to seize the No. 1 ranking.
Lewis, who won the previous LPGA event two weeks ago in Texas, must win or finish alone in second behind anyone but Ko to take the top spot.
Either would have to get past Salas and Park, who traded birdies throughout the day, with Salas’ bogey-free effort giving her the third-round lead.
“I felt really good,” said Salas, who has been in contention this season with a runner-up finish at the Kia Classic and a tie for third in the Bahamas.
“Like my mentality. Yes, I was quite nervous coming down the stretch, Hee-young was knocking it close to the pin. But I felt good. I felt relaxed most importantly,” Salas said. “I was just trying to smile as much as possible.”
Park had four birdies and two bogeys in her two-under effort and said even her bogey at the 18th was not too deflating.
“I putted perfect and just missed the hole, so I wasn’t disappointed,” she said.
Park said accuracy would be key in her pursuit of Salas, after too many of her tee shots failed to find the fairway in the third round.
“It’s a bit tough to get it close or make birdie chance,” she said, “so tomorrow [yesterday] I’ll put a little more focus on the accuracy rather than distance.”
The other Taiwanese player at the tournament, Candie Kung, followed rounds of 71 and 72 with a third round of 69 to finish on 212.
Additional reporting by staff writer