SEATTLE • Lydia Ko put herself in a strong position to win her third straight Major title when she earned a one-stroke lead after the third round at the KMPG Women's PGA Championship in Sammamish, Washington, on Saturday.
If the 19-year-old South Korean-born Kiwi golfer closes the deal at the tight and demanding Sahalee Country Club, just east of Seattle, this morning (Singapore time), she would become the first teenager in the modern era to win three Majors, and just the second in the history of the game.
Tom Morris Jr was 19 when he won his third British Open in 1870.
Ko, despite a bogey at the final hole, carded 70 for a two-under 211 total. Americans Brittany Lincicome (71) and Gerina Piller (71) were the only other players under par through 54 holes.
Six others were two shots back, including Thai Ariya Jutanugarn (68), who has won her past three events, and overnight leaders South Korean Lee Mi Rim (73) and Canadian Brooke Henderson (73).
After coming from behind to win the last two Majors, the Evian Championship in September and ANA Inspiration in April, Ko is in a different position with the lead.
"Going into Evian and ANA I just had very calm thoughts, positive thoughts until the last rounds," the New Zealander said.
"Then I just said, 'Hey, just go out there and enjoy it. Just don't worry about what everybody else does.' That's all I can do.
"I've got to just try my best and have fun. I can't control what somebody else does."
Ko began the third round a solitary stroke behind Lee and Henderson.
The world No. 1 made birdies at the fifth and sixth holes to charge into the lead, but was caught by Piller when the American made her second birdie of the day at No. 9.
Ko bogeyed the 12th, but birdied the 15th before her closing bogey, while Piller was two over on her back nine.
On the 17th hole, Ko showed off one of the traits of a true champion. Lying on the green but unable to take a direct route to the hole with her putter, she elected to play a shot that takes supreme confidence - a flick with a sand wedge off the putting surface.
Her skills around the green are second to none and it was no surprise she laid the ball within a couple of feet of the hole and went on to make the par putt.
It was one of two clutch short shots she hit on the back nine, the pair of par saves leaving her one ahead of the field.
Jutanugarn, meanwhile, said she is not thinking about extending her run to four consecutive victories.
"Not really," the Thai said. "This one is a Major and last year I missed the cut in this one, so I really wanted to make the cut."
REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE