RANCHO, MIRAGE CALIFORNIA – Ai Miyazato surrendered her share of the lead after carding a 1-under-par 71 in the third round of the ANA Inspiration in Rancho Mirage, California, on Saturday.
The former world No. 1 had two birdies and a bogey at Mission Hills Country Club but remained in title contention tied for fifth at 8-under 208, two shots behind overnight co-leader Lexi Thompson of the United States.
Thompson, who won this tournament in 2014, shot a 69 and closed out her round one stroke ahead of a three-way second-place tie between world No. 1 Lydia Ko of New Zealand, Thailand’s Ariya Jutanugarn and South Korea’s Chun In-gee.
“It was a long day in which I could not generate any momentum,” said Miyazato, who canceled out a birdie on the fifth with a bogey at the ninth, but made a crucial birdie putt on the par-5 18th to finish under the card.
“The birdie putt at the 18th was a big shot. Finishing off by shrinking the deficit by one shot will give me something to build on in the final round,” she said.
“The conditions will probably be difficult again but I want to have a good day and take the few chances that come my way.”
Thompson trailed by as many as three shots on the back nine but caught fire late in her round, making back-to-back birdies at the 15th and 16th holes to climb within one.
Thompson then seized the outright lead at the last hole, taking advantage of her length on the par-5 to stick her second to within tap-in range for eagle.
“Yeah, I was a little off,” Thompson said of her putting. “I thought the practice green was a lot faster today, and I got out there and they were a little slower. I was just a little timid, but putting is all about confidence, so I just need to roll a few in and get that confidence going,” she told LPGA.com.
“It was a quick change out there with my last few holes, but it was a bit of a struggle my first 10. Just on the greens, (I) struggled a bit, just putting a little timid. But to finish like that definitely turns around my confidence, and I feel really good going into tomorrow,” said Thompson.
Of the other Japanese players, Ayako Uehara had a 71 and was at 2 under in a tie for 33rd, while Harukyo Nomura (71), Shiho Oyama (71) and Mika Miyazato (74) were even after three rounds and in a share of 47th.
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