Sweden’s Anna Nordqvist fired a flawless third-round six-under-par 66 on Saturday to seize the lead at the Airbus LPGA Classic in Alabama.
Nordqvist’s six birdies included four in a row from the second and she drained a clutch par putt at 18 to preserve her bogey-free round and a one-shot lead over Scotland’s Catriona Matthew.
Matthew had led after each of the first two rounds, finishing both Thursday and Friday one stroke in front of English teenager Charley Hull.
Matthew got off to a shaky start on Saturday, with three bogeys in her first five holes. She righted the ship, pulling back one stroke before the turn and making four birdies for a two-under 70 for 201.
American Stacy Lewis, the world No. 2, who could supplant South Korean Inbee Park atop the world rankings at the end of the week, had eight birdies and two bogeys in a 66 that left her alone in third on 14-under 202.
She said she would not be focusing on her chance to rise to No. 1. Park left the door wide open by missing the halfway cut and Lewis needs only a solo third-place finish or better to topple her.
“The goal is to win,” Lewis said. “I’m not here to finish second or third. Now it’s just going out there and trying to win a golf tournament.”
Hull, who won her first Ladies European Tour title at Morocco in March shortly before her 18th birthday, carded a 71 to join Americans Michelle Wie and Jessica Korda in a tie for fourth on 203.
Wie posted a 66 and Korda carded a 69.
Nine players are within four strokes of Nordqvist, which will make for an exciting finish on the Crossings Course, where Nordqvist will be seeking a third title of the season after triumphs in Carlsbad, California, in March and in Thailand in February.
The Swede has displayed devastating accuracy, hitting 51 of 54 greens in regulation over the first three rounds, including 17 of 18 on Saturday.