American Lexi Thompson shot a bogey-free, 5 under par 66 3rd round at the Sime Darby LPGA Malaysia, pulled ahead of South Korean Ilhee Lee, and is going in to the final round on Sunday with -17 for the tournament and a 3 shot advantage over Lee, her closest competitor.
Lee, at -14, is holding solo 2nd place on the leaderboard, with Suzann Pettersen and Shanshan Feng, both at -11, sharing the 3rd slot. Eleven players are within 10 shots of Thompson’s lead. With only 18 holes remaining in the Sime Darby, those 10 shots could be quite a stretch, but not an impossible distance to travel. It’s not in the bag yet for Thompson
Thompson’s flat stick is driving her surge.
I went back to my old style of putting . . . Hitting them a little firmer and staying a little farther away. So I’m feeling really confident with my putter, and mainly that is what putting is all about. It’s just getting over the putter and saying you’re going to make it.
Rolex ranked #21, Thompson trailed second-round leader Ilhee Lee by one shot going in to the 3rd round and moved into a tie for the lead early after Lee missed a three-foot par putt on the par 4 2nd hole. She took the lead with her second birdie on No. 6 and extended her lead to four shots after two more birdies on Nos. 7 and 10.
It was a putting contest between Thompson and Lee all the way to the final hole of the round. Thompson picked up her final birdie of the day after sinking an 18-footer on the 13th hole and had her lead cut to three after Lee made a five-foot birdie putt on No. 18.
Rain & Wind
Play was suspended for slightly more than an hour Saturday morning because of lightening. Rain softened up the course a bit and the wind also became a factor. Shanshan Feng and Suzanne Pettersen, trailing Thompson by 6 shots, both commented on the course conditions and the weather delay. Feng felt that the softer fairways were cutting her distance but Pettersen, who’s playing the Sime Darby with a new Nike prototype ball, a black RZN, was struggling more with the putting surface than fairway shot distance. And everybody faced the same problem on the par-5 16th hole, which was played into a steady wind for most of the round.
4th Round Stretch
Swede Anna Nordqvist, Frenchwoman Karine Icher, sharing the fifth spot on the board at -9, are still within striking distance of the lead, particularly if Thompson runs into trouble in the final round. Nordqvist made the biggest move on Saturday, starting the 3rd round in a tie for 29th and ending it in a tie for 5th. Just below them, Thai Pornanong Phatlum, Englishwoman Jodi Ewart Shadoff, and South Koreans So Yeon Ryu and IK Kim are 9 shots off the lead and sharing 6th place. Although the doors are closing, a few birdies here and a few bogeys there could still fuel a change at the top of the board for any of these 6 players.
Sime Darby defending champion and Rolex ranked #1 Inbee Park carded 69 today, bringing her to -3 for the tournament. Park’s putter, which was looking good last week at the Reignwood LPGA Classic in Beijing, has cooled down again. She’s had a total of 95 putts in 3 rounds of play. Just for comparison, tourney leader Lexi Thomson and Ilhee Lee, who’s trailing the lead by 3 shots, have both had 84 putts.
Pretty in Pink
Saturday was Pink Day at the Sime Darby LPGA Malaysia to raise awareness and help support the tournament’s official charity, Cancer Research Initiatives Foundation (CARIF). Players, caddies and staff were encouraged to wear pink clothing or have pink items during Saturday’s third round of play. Caddie bibs and pin flags also featured the color pink. In its four-year history, the event has held the ‘pink-out’ every Saturday.
Golf Channel will provide coverage of the final round at the Sime Darby beginning at 12:30am Sunday and I’ll be back with a tournament wrap-up and a look forward to the next stops on the LPGA Asia loop later in the day.