The top-ranked Yani Tseng shot a 2-under 70 Saturday for a one-shot lead after the third round of the Honda LPGA Thailand, the opening event on the 2011 LPGA Tour schedule.
She is trying for her third tournament victory in three weeks. A 4-foot eagle putt on her finishing hole on the Pattaya Old Course at Siam Country Club lifted the Taiwanese star to a 9-under 207 total, one better than American Michelle Wie (71) and second-round leader In-kyung Kim (72).
“It was very exciting finishing eagle, that’s for sure,” Tseng said. “Nice to have a one-shot lead over IK and Michelle.”
Tseng double bogeyed the second hole, but made up a shot by the turn. Three birdies spanning holes Nos. 10-15 put her in front by two, but they were offset by consecutive bogeys on 16-17, and the closing eagle saved her round.
“It was better for me today,” she said. “A tough start but I had a good comeback and I stayed really patient. I don’t put too much tension on myself. I wanted to stay relaxed. Don’t be afraid if I miss a shot. If I bogey a hole, I’ll birdie the next hole. Keep smiling and relax.”
Tseng became the world No. 1 when she won the Women’s Australian Open by seven strokes two weeks ago, then the Australian Ladies Masters by four last weekend.
“It would be great (to win three in a row),” she said. “Right now, I’m prepared and not afraid when I’m on top. I know how to win a tournament. I’m going to go enjoy the tournament like today.”
Wie had four bogeys and five birdies, finishing better than she started.
“On the front nine I putted horribly, couldn’t make a single thing, but on the back nine I put myself together,” Wie said. “Tomorrow, hopefully I’ll learn from my mistakes.”
Kim’s round was similar to Wie’s. Her one-shot lead to begin the day was gone by the fifth hole with her third straight bogey, but she closed with birdies on three of her last four holes to remain in contention.
“I just had a really rough start, like yesterday,” Kim said. “I had the same mindset through all 18, very relaxed. I didn’t really do that very well on the front nine. I tried to play smart on the back, dropped some putts with a lot of break. I feel much better on the back nine.”
American Paula Creamer (70) was alone in fourth at 7 under and Kerrie Webb was fifth at 6 under.
M.J. Hur (68) of South Korea followed at 5 under, then a group of four at 4 under included former world No. 1 Juli Inkster (73).
Defending champion Ai Miyazato (73) was at 1 over, 10 shots behind.
Also Saturday, Giulia Sergas cut a frustrated figure after a late collapse and a one-stroke penalty saw her commanding lead at the New Zealand Women's Open reduced to four strokes heading into the final round.
The Italian had been eight shots clear at the head of the field with two holes to play in Christchurch, but bogeys as 17 and 18, and then a penalty for slow play, saw her sign for a 70 and slip to 13-under overall in the Ladies European Tour event.
"I'm upset about the decision," said Sergas. "They said I was a little too slow on the last hole and it could have been but it was really upsetting because I'm a really fast player and I got penalized for just one hole that went bad for me."
Sergas' misfortune means England's Laura Davies, the defending champion, is within striking distance heading into the final day.
Davies is all on her own at 9 under, while Linda Wessenberg of Sweden, Norway's Cecilie Lundgreen, Diana Luna of Italy and Australian Kristie Smith are one stroke further back.