October 17, 2008

Pressel & Three Others Share Lead

Hoping for her first victory of the year, Morgan Pressel bore down and fired a five-under 67 which moved her into a tie for the lead with three other players

Pressel's third round included one eagle, five birdies and two bogies.

Pressel's third round included one eagle, five birdies and two bogies.

KAPALUA, Hawaii (AP) -- With seven groups still on the course, Morgan Pressel didn't think her slim lead would hold up by the end of the day. She should've known better as the touring pro at windswept Kapalua.

Pressel moved into position for her first LPGA Tour victory of the year, shooting a 5-under 67 on Saturday for a share of the third-round lead in the inaugural Kapalua LPGA Classic.

The 20-year-old Pressel was tied with Brittany Lang (71), Carin Koch (68), Jee Young Lee (70) at 5-under 211. All four leaders are chasing their first win of the season.

"Hopefully come out tomorrow and I can fire like I fired at them today," Pressel said. "I felt like I was able to let go a little bit more today than I have in the past month. Hopefully, I can continue that and knowing the golf course, it's just an added bonus."

Pressel missed an easy opportunity to move to 6 under for the outright lead when she lipped out a 2-foot birdie putt on the final hole. She slapped herself on the rear and threw her putter onto her golf bag in disgust as she walked off the green.

"It's hard to walk off the last hole like that," Pressel said. "I just missed it. Nothing else to say about that."

There was a traffic jam at the top with 16 players within three shots of the lead.

Laura Diaz, seeking her first win since 2002, and South Korea's Sun Young Yoo and Il Mi Chung shot 71s and were one stroke off the lead along with second-round co-leader Suzann Pettersen (72). Heather Young (67), Cristie Kerr (70) and Alena Sharp (72) were 3 under.

With four straight top-10 finishes including a win at the Safeway Classic, Kerr is the only player in the top 11 on the leaderboard with a victory this season.

Conditions at the hilly, pine tree-lined Bay Course were windy, causing problems around the greens. However, the trades were not as strong as the two previous rounds, allowing for more birdie chances.

"I played the most solid round of golf I played all week in terms of ball striking," said Pressel, who hasn't finished in the top 10 since June.

Last year, Pressel won the Kraft Nabisco Championship becoming the youngest player in tour history to win a major.

She surged to the top of the leaderboard after pitching in for eagle on the short par-5 15th from 45 feet and hitting a firm 7-wood tee off the tees to a foot on the 186-yard 17th.

Pressel began the day at even par and ran into trouble in the middle of her round with bogeys on Nos. 9 and 10, but got right back on track by birdieing No. 11 with a hybrid shot to 8 feet.

Koch, winless since the 2005 Corona Morelia Championship, birdied three of her final four holes to reach 5 under for a share of the lead.

"For me, I haven't been in this situation for a long time, so I'll try not to concentrate on anything but me and do what I can do out there and whatever everyone else does, I can't do too much about," said the Swede.

Lang reached 5 under by tapping in for birdie on the 454-yard, par-5 15th, the easiest hole at the Bay Course. She bogeyed two of her first three holes when she couldn't locate the green.

"I was really excited to be out there and once I calmed down, I played a lot better," Lang said. "But I made some stupid mistakes early on."

The 23-year-old former Duke star has four top-10 finishes this year, including a fifth-place tie at Longs Drugs Challenge last week.

Lee, who has three top-10 finishes this year, sank a 15-foot putt for birdie on the final hole. The 22-year-old South Korean won the 2005 CJ Nine Bridges Classic before joining the LGPA Tour.

"That was in very, very windy conditions. So, I would consider myself OK (for the final round)," she said.

Pettersen set the pace early with two birdies in the first five holes to get to 6 under for a two-stroke lead over several players.

She seemed confident in the wind, sticking her tee shot 5 feet for birdie on the 156-yard fifth, a scenic hole which runs along the churning ocean.

Pettersen unraveled, however, starting with a three-putt bogey on the par-5 sixth where several of her shots came up short. While standing on the seventh tee box, a frustrated Pettersen had a few words for her caddie.

She momentarily fell into a six-way tie for the lead at 4 under when she bogeyed the par-4 ninth but made up for it on the next hole with a nice wedge shot to about 6 feet to reach 5 under.

Pettersen, seeking her first victory of the year after winning five times in 2007, fell off the pace when she when she couldn't go up-and-down on the par-3 17th after her tee shot found the greenside bunker. She was visibly upset with her play, slamming her iron in the grass a few times on the back nine.

Annika Sorenstam, who opened with a 77, shot a 71 and was at 2 over. The 72-time LPGA Tour winner is making one of her last competitive appearances in the United States before leaving the tour at the end of the year.

Top-ranked Lorena Ochoa was even par after a 73.

"I really didn't make any putts to get some momentum going," Ochoa said. "I think the grain is easy to read. It's more about the wind and some of those greens are really windy."