LOS ANGELES • South Korea's Ji Eun Hee, seeking her first victory since the 2009 US Women's Open, fired a bogey-free seven-under 65 to seize a one-stroke lead after Saturday's third round of the LPGA Founders Cup.
But world No. 1 Lydia Ko of New Zealand, fourth-ranked American Stacy Lewis and Spain's Carlota Ciganda each fired 64s at Phoenix, Arizona, to charge into contention with the first Major of the women's golf season just two weeks away at Rancho Mirage, California.
Ji finished on 18-under 198 after 54 holes, with Lewis and South Korean 36-hole leader Kim Sei Young sharing second on 199, American Jacqui Concolino fourth on 200 and 18-year-old Seoul-born Kiwi Ko sharing fifth on 201 with Ciganda and American Paula Creamer.
Ji birdied the fifth and seventh holes, then had back-to-back birdies at Nos. 9 and 10. She also sandwiched birdies at the par-three 14th and 17th holes around another at the par-five 15th.
"My putting was really good," she said. "My iron shots were good too, because I was really struggling with them the last couple of weeks.
"I didn't think about that score. I just tried my best on every shot and just tried to focus on my game."
Ko and Lewis each made eight birdies in a bogey-free round, while Ciganda had an eagle and six birdies. "The leaders, they were holing a lot of putts, and that's what I wasn't doing the first two days, and I was a lot better today," Ko said.
Lewis opened with a birdie, birdied the par-five fifth and closed the front nine with a birdie. She birdied the par-five 11th, par-four 13th and the 15th to start a closing run of three birdies over the final four holes.
"These scores are ridiculous," Lewis said. "You just go out there and make as many birdies as you can."
She switched to a new putter in Friday's second round after making only three birdies on Thursday. She made eight birdies in round two and again on Saturday.
Ko birdied three of the first five holes and three of the last six to move into contention at an event that pays tribute to the pioneering women players who formed the LPGA Tour.
"What the Founders did to just bring out women's golf, that's just amazing," she said. "It's just what they've done to make my dreams come true. If it wasn't for them, who knows, I might not be a golfer."