Thompson takes 2-shot lead to final round of ANA Inspiration
ABS-CBN Sports on Apr 02, 2017 10:55 AM
Lexi Thompson watches her tee shot on the third hole during the third round of the LPGA Tour ANA Inspiration golf tournament at Mission Hills Country Club Saturday, April 1, 2017 in Rancho Mirage, Calif. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)
GREG BEACHAM, AP Sports Writer
RANCHO MIRAGE, Calif. (AP) — Lexi Thompson excelled on an extra-long day at the ANA Inspiration, and she put herself in prime position to play for her second major title.
Thompson claimed the tournament lead while completing her wind-delayed second round Saturday before moving two shots ahead of Norway's Suzann Pettersen with a third-round 67. After playing 28 holes, Thompson is at 13-under 203 heading into Sunday's final round.
"I struggled a little bit off the tee and had a few more rough shots than I wanted, but you can't ever complain about a 5-under round," Thompson said.
The 22-year-old Thompson's victory here in 2014 is her only previous major victory, but the American excels on the Dinah Shore Course at Mission Hills Country Club.
She smashed her drives on the way to six birdies in the third round, keeping a competitive field squarely behind her.
"I just love this golf course," Thompson said. "I get to hit a lot of drivers, and it just sets up nicely for me all over."
Thompson and Pettersen stayed ahead of a field posting unusually low scores, with the 2-over 146 cut matching the lowest cut score in tournament history.
They did it despite intermittent returns of the desert wind that called an early halt to Thursday's play and forced two days of catch-up, forcing 56 golfers to complete their second rounds on Saturday morning. The field got all caught up on a postcard-perfect desert Saturday, and warm weather is expected Sunday.
"It's definitely not a usual week, what we're used to, but it's a major week," said Thompson, who couldn't tee off Friday until roughly 90 minutes before sunset. "We have to deal with the wind conditions and whatever weather we get."
Pettersen shot a third-round 68 to reach 11 under, while Australia's Minjee Lee joined a South Korean trio — Inbee Park, So Yeon Ryu and Mi Jung Hur — at 10-under 206. Michelle Wie, Cristie Kerr, world No. 2 Ariya Jutanugarn and France's Karine Icher are five shots behind Thompson at 8 under.
"I think I've always said since the first time I saw this place, it really fits my eye," said Pettersen, a two-time major champion.
"I'm driving the ball well, and that's a major key on this golf course. I've got a big job to do (Sunday). The leaderboard is packed behind me as well. You've got to expect to go out there and shoot low. There's a lot at stake, but I'm all in for it."
Thompson debuted at the Dinah Shore Course as a 14-year-old amateur in 2009, and she won in 2014, the tournament's final year as the Kraft Nabisco Championship. She has finished seventh and fifth in the two years since the major's name change.
Thompson immediately took charge Saturday morning with back-to-back birdies, claiming the outright lead and surging to a second-round 67. After following two birdies with a bogey early in her third round, she settled in and finished the final 14 holes at 4 under.
Wie battled to a third-round 71 while struggling with a nagging back injury during her own 28-hole day. She repeatedly saved par to stay in contention.
"I just hit one shot that was a little bit out of sync and kind of threw my hips out of place," Wie said. "I think it was just a lot of golf. The two full warmups (and then) 28 holes. Just not a young stallion anymore, I guess."
DIVOTS: World No. 1 and defending ANA Inspiration champion Lydia Ko shot a 71 to move to a steady 5-under 211. ... Jutanugarn appeared to play herself out of contention with three bogeys in five holes early in the third round, but the Thai star rallied back with three birdies and an eagle in the final eight holes on the course where she blew a two-shot lead with three holes to play last year. ... Lucy Li, the 14-year-old prodigy who qualified last week, was the only amateur to make the cut with a 1-over 145. She played her first two rounds alongside Wie. Li is 7 over after a third-round 78.