Jee Young Lee fired a 65 to take a one-shot lead at -12 into the final round of the LPGA Championship. Maria Hjorth also posted 65 to finish at -11 and is now in second place. Annika Sorenstam and Lorena Ochoa are tied for third at -10 with Lindsey Wright, Brittany Lang, Yani Tseng and Laura Diaz tied for fifth at -8.
Admit it – you thought Lorena would be up by about five shots right now and just cruise to her third straight major championship tomorrow. So did I. A three-putt bogey at 1 and a rough-induced double-bogey at 7 derailed the Ochoa Express momentarily but she straightened out enough to make up three shots over the last 11 holes and post 72. With the door left open, the trio of Lee, Hjorth and Sorenstam took advantage to place themselves into Sunday’s final group. Jelly was just brilliant down the stretch – eagle at 15 and birdies at 16 and 18. Maria birdied four straight to finish the front, added two more at 12 and 15, then saved par after a horrible tee shot at 18. Annika shot a bogey-less 68 which sounds great but she missed birdie opportunities at 13, 14, 16 and incredibly from four feet at 17 which should have the Swede at least sharing the overnight lead. Tseng’s 65 vaulted her from T52 to T5 – she birdied her last two to reach -8. Diaz had a rollercoaster front nine but birdies at 13 and 15 moved her into contention. Wright and Lang each had at least a share of the lead early on the back nine but Lindsey suffered three bogeys in five holes around the turn and Brittany doubled 13 after taking an unplayable.
The round started two hours late due to fog, which gave way to 100-degree temperatures with high humidity. They played lift-clean-place again today (are LPGA officials gun shy now because of what happened at Sybase?) which always helps the scoring. Lorie Kane (76 -4 T27) and Rachel Hetherington (75 -4 T27) struggled and fell out of the running while Irene Cho (69 -7 T9) and Angela Stanford (67 -6 T12) moved quickly up the leaderboard.
As I mentioned above, the final group includes Annika Sorenstam (10 major victories), Maria Hjorth and Jee Young Lee (0 majors between them). Lorena Ochoa will still be the favorite in my book – if Annika was putting better, I might think differently. I can’t imagine them being allowed lift-clean-place again tomorrow. If it’s not allowed (thus being different from the first three days), a lot of players could be adversely affected by the change. Hjorth has a great record in the last two majors – fourth at KNC, tied for second at British – and Lee has played well in majors too. It would behoove ya to find somebody with Golf Channel at their place tomorrow afternoon.