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Miyazato takes outright lead in Thailand
Feb 18, 2012

Ai Miyazato, 2012 Honda LPGA Thailand

Rolex Rankings No. 11 Ai Miyazato fired a 7-under 65 in Saturday's third round to take the outright lead heading into the final round of the Honda LPGA Thailand. Miyazato, who won this event in 2010, leads Rolex Rankings No. 1 and defending champion Yani Tseng by one shot.

Miyazato, who led after the first round, had eight birdies and one bogey en route to taking back the lead at 14-under-par on Saturday. It was a long day for those on the top of the leaderboard, including Miyazato, as she had to return to the golf course early in the morning to complete the second round before teeing off a few hours later for third round action.

This year marks the fourth time that the Honda LPGA Thailand has been held on the Old Course at Siam Country. And for the three players who have won on this course previously - Miyazato, Tseng and Suzann Pettersen - there appears to be something they just really like about playing here in Thailand.

All three players are once again in the hunt heading into Sunday's final round. MIyazato leads at 14-under-par with Tseng, who is the defending champion, sitting one back at 13-under-par. Pettersen, who won here in 2007 and has finished no worse than T8 at this golf course, sits four shots back at 10-under par.

For Miyazato, there is no question that she feels comfortable here at Siam Country Club.

"I think i have a good feeling with this golf course," Miyazato said. "It's just the beginning of the season and a beautiful golf course and a nice temperature today. The people are really nice over here and I'm just having a really good time over here so that's why it makes me really comfortable. So that's the big reason why I can play really well out there."

It certainly didn't take long for defending champion and Rolex Rankings No. 1 Yani Tseng to make her presence felt once again near the top of the leaderboard.

Tseng followed up her second-round 65 with another 65 on Saturday to put herself right back in the mix, just one shot off the lead. This week marks the first of many opportunities that Tseng will have to defend an LPGA title this season and she certainly is eager to capture a second straight victory here in Thailand.

"I hit so many great shots today and I just feel like my game is there," Tseng said. "I'm pretty confident and just will try to do it again tomorrow."

2011 Louise Suggs Rolex Rookie of the Year Hee Kyung Seo shot a 2-under 70 in Saturday's third round to move into a tie for 45th at 2-over-par. But Seo's round was far from ordinary as she had seven birdies to along with a 10 that she carded on the par-5 18th hole.

Seo began her round on the 10th hole and got off to a hot start. She was 3-under for her round when she headed to the 18th, which was her ninth hole of the day. A tee shot into the rough forced Seo to lay up with her second shot and she had about 100 yards remaining on her third shot. That's when the trouble started.

Her wedge shot from 100 yards landed short of the pin and rolled off the front of the green. She then hit three chip shots that rolled off the green back at her. Finally on her seventh shot of the hole, Seo hit her ball across the green. This time, she was left with a downhill chip back toward the pin. She didn't hit that one nearly far enough, nervous to hit the ball off the front again, she said. And then she two putted to finish off her 10 on the hole.

"I hope I learned a lot from that," Seo said with a slight laugh after her round. "I was just trying to hang on. I don't know. I was out of my mind after that hole."

But while it would have been easy for Seo to fold after taking a 10, she instead went on to shoot a 4-under 32 on her second nine which included back-to-back birdies on her final two holes.

"It was really hard to get back emotionally after that hole," Seo said. "It took about three holes and I had a birdie opportunity on the 10th hole and didn't make it. I was trying to think positive. Fortunately this was the third round and I had 27 more holes. So I was trying to think positive. It was a perfect round except for that one hole."

After severe weather halted play on Friday afternoon with 14 players remaining on the course, the golfers were back at Siam Country Club early on Saturday morning to finish up the second round. Play resumed at 7:28 a.m. and the second round was officially completed at 8:27 a.m. Karrie Webb held a three-shot lead at the finish of the second round.

Everyone was able to complete the third round on Saturday but it did make for a long day for some of the leaders, including Webb who is now two shots back heading into Sunday's final round.

"It was definitely a lot steeper this evening after a 4:45 a.m. wakeup call this morning," Webb joked of the walk up the hill on the 18th. "So I'm glad to be done. There are still 18 holes to go so hopefully I'll be in good shape for tomorrow."

Hometown girl: One of the best rounds of the day belonged to 16-year-old amateur and Thailand native Ariya Jutanugarn, who shot a 7-under 65 to move into seventh at 9-under-par for the tournament.

Jutanugarn won the 2011 U.S. Junior Girls' Championship and was also named the 2011 Rolex Junior Player of the Year. She is no stranger to competing against LPGA players. In 2007 at age 11 years, 11 months and 2 days, Jutanugarn became the youngest to play in an LPGA event via qualifying.

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