Teen star Thompson tied with Kim for lead after 54 holes at Avnet Classic

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Alexis Thompson, playing on a sponsor exemption, could be one round away from becoming an LPGA Tour winner at age 16.
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Associated Press

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Alexis Thompson has a shot at becoming the youngest winner in LPGA Tour history.

She has her own car, too.

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2011 AVNET CLASSIC

This is the third full-field LPGA Tour event played on the Crossings Course, which has hosted LPGA tournaments in 11 of the last past 12 years.

It's fun times for the 16-year-old Floridian, who shot a 5-under 67 in breezy conditions Saturday to take a share of the third-round lead with Song-Hee Kim in the Avnet LPGA Classic. Kim had a 70 to match Thompson at 7-under 209 on the Crossings Course at the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail's Magnolia Grove complex.

Thompson wasn't thinking about making LPGA Tour history, just about making shots.

"I'm going into (Sunday) just going all-in on every golf shot," Thompson said. "Play consistent like I have the last few days and hopefully it'll all go well."

Thompson will be 16 years, 2 months, 21 days Sunday. Marlene Hagge was 18 years, 14 days when she won the 1952 Sarasota Open, which was an 18-hole event. Hagge won two 18-hole events at 18. Paula Creamer is the youngest winner of a multi-round event, winning the 2005 Sybase Classic at 18 years, 9 months, 17 days.

Thompson's father Scott, who is also her caddie, knows his daughter faces pressure with her prime spot on the leaderboard.

"How can you not feel it when you see your name on it?" he said. "I think she feels it a little bit."

Thompson tied for second in the Evian Masters last year in France, a stroke behind then-No. 1 Jiyai Shin.

Amy Yang was a stroke back after a 72, and Maria Hjorth (67), Suzann Pettersen (71) and Karen Stupples (72) were 5 under. Second-round leader Sandra Gal was 4 under after a 75.

Thompson stole the day. The teen from Coral Springs, Fla., only celebrated her 16th birthday in February, and got her first car -- a Camaro SS -- at the end of last year. Thompson played in the U.S. Women's Open at 12, and turned pro last year after going 5-0 for the United States in the Curtis Cup.

Thompson said she didn't notice her top spot on the leaderboard until she was heading up to the 18th green.

"I hadn't been looking at the leaderboard, since I'm not trying to worry about that," she said.

Thompson dodged trouble on the finishing hole after hitting her approach into the greenside rough.

"I was just hoping, 'Don't go in the bunker,'" she said. "When I hit it, I was just like, 'Wow, that was really bad.' But that's golf. You hit shots like that. You've just got to take it and go find it."

And she did. But Kim saved par after landing in the bunker.

"I had a great lie on the bunker so I knew I had par," Kim said. "I had a lot of confidence. I think that's why I made par."

She is seeking her first win.

"I know what I need and I know what I have to do," Kim said. "So I just try to play my own game and talk to the caddie more and enjoy it."

Yang would also be a first-time winner, but she's content to be a chaser rather than the front-runner like Thompson and Kim.

"I haven't been in this position too much but that way is better than a one-shot lead," said Yang, the runner-up last year in the LPGA Tour Championship. "They'll be a little nervous."

Thompson made a number of mid-range putts, including one on No. 16 for the last of her six birdies.

"We got the wind right on a lot of holes today," Scott Thompson said. "We were pretty good at judging the wind and when we did make a mistake like (on 18), she recovered from it. She's hitting it good. She made a lot of putts. She made like five putts from about 12-15 feet, which sometimes we don't make."

Gal struggled after opening with rounds of 70 and 67 to enter the day with a one-stroke lead over Yang.

"It kind of played tough today," Gal said. "The greens were really bouncy, and I just wasn't striking the ball as well. Basically, a par round and I would have been happy today but I missed three short putts.

"I'm still in the mix. I'm just three shots back, so nothing to worry about."

Hjorth overcame back-to-back bogeys early with three birdies over the final 10 holes coupled with an eagle on the par-5 16th hole.

She set up her 15-foot eagle putt with a 3-wood approach. "It was a really good second shot," said Hjorth, who won in 2007 on a Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail course in Prattville. "The wind was coming up so it was kind of the perfect shape to get into the pin."