KAPOLEI, Hawaii (AP) — Suzann Pettersen shot a 4-under 68 on Friday at wind-swept Ko Olina to maintain a one-stroke lead after the third round of the LPGA Lotte Championship.
The 32-year-old Norwegian, a 10-time LPGA Tour winner ranked sixth in the world, had a 14-under 202 total.
“There’s too many good players to start stepping on the brake,” Pettersen said. “But I really hope that they will set up the course in a fun way tomorrow, make the par 5s reachable. … It makes it exciting. It could be for the good and for the bad. But let us have some risk reward.”
South Korea’s Hee Kyung Seo was second after a 66, matching the best round of the day, and defending champion Ai Miyazato was third at 11 under after a 70.
“I hit good shots, good putts,” Pettersen said. “Been putting good all week, and really not trying to force anything, just let it come to me. I felt like I maybe left a few out there, but still, like Ai says, par is not a bad score around here. If you mix in a few birdies here and there, it really helps.”
Pettersen, a stroke ahead of Miyazato entering the round, birdied the first three holes and got to 14 under with a birdie on the par-4 seventh. The European Solheim Cup star bogeyed the par-3 eighth, and got the stroke back with a birdie on the par-5 14th.
She had consecutive LPGA Tour victories late last season in South Korea and Taiwan and won a Ladies European Tour event last month in China.
“I found a few little keys yesterday on the range, just to tighten up the swing a fraction after two days in the wind, and I came up the back pretty good,” Pettersen said.
Miyazato, who was in Pettersen’s playing group, got off to a slow start, but rebounded after the turn with three birdies to remain in contention.
“It’s just trying to play simple out there,” Miyazato said. “I know my game really well and I know what I need to do, just keep making birdies and try and catch up to Suzann tomorrow.
“I think the greens are definitely softer than last year. I think that makes a big difference. I remember it was really tough to make an adjustment with the iron shots last year. Definitely the greens are softer, so you can be a little bit more aggressive than last year.”
Seo, the 2010 Kia Classic winner who lost playoffs last year in the Australian Women’s Open and Manulife Financial LPGA Classic in Canada, had an eagle, six birdies and two bogeys. She made three straight birdies on the back nine for a share of the lead, but dropped back with a bogey on the par-4 18th.
“Yeah, the shot making was good, too, and I had lots of great birdie opportunities and great chances to make it, and then obviously it was really windy, but I think I got a little used to about wind from yesterday, so it wasn’t that hard for me,” Seo said. “But I just picked my target and then waited for it to happen. I just tried to do my own thing, not think about results of other players or scores, just try to think my thing that I worked on last few weeks, and it’s getting better and better and I’ve got more confidence in that.”
South Korea’s Hyo Joo Kim, only 17, was 10 under after a 69. Second-ranked Stacy Lewis had a 69 to join Lizette Salas (67) and 17-year-old Ariya Jutanugarn (68) at 9 under.
“I’m visualizing a lot better,” Salas said. “I’m just having more fun, and just 5-under par is a great score here with this wind, and I was texting my swing instructor, like how do I get the ball low, because I have a high ball flight, so I was just trying to get the ball low and out of trouble.”
Jessica Korda also had a 66 to finish at 8 under along with top-ranked Inbee Park (67) and Jodi Ewart Shadoff (68).
Lydia Ko, the 15-year-old New Zealand amateur who won the Canadian Open in August to become the youngest LPGA Tour winner, was 4 under after a 70. The South Korea-born Ko has two other pro victories, the New South Wales Open last year and New Zealand Women’s Open this year, and won the U.S. Women’s Amateur last season.
Third-ranked Yani Tseng, winless in more than year, had a 71 to get to 2 under.
Local favorite Michelle Wie was 1 under after a 69. She broke 70 for only the second time in 21 rounds this season.