Thai Ariya drives into her rivals' rear view

TORONTO • Using a driver in competition for the third straight day after shelving it for months, Ariya Jutanugarn recorded eight birdies - along with two bogeys - on Saturday.

That helped the Thai golfer vault from 34th place to third after three rounds at the Manulife LPGA Classic in Ontario, Canada, and gave her a strong chance of winning a sixth tournament since May.

Her six-under-par round of 66 on the Whistle Bear course in Cambridge placed her two strokes behind South Korea's Lee Mi Hyang, who also shot a 66 for a total of 202.

Another Korean Kim Hyo Joo (68) was in second, a stroke behind Lee.

Ariya, who rebounded from a knee injury that forced her to withdraw during the Rio Olympics to win the Canadian Pacific Women's Open last week, shared a 204 total with compatriot Patcharajutar Kongkraphan (69).

"I'm not really worried about the leader," said 20-year-old Ariya, who won five times this season to rise to a career-high No. 2 in the world rankings. "I want to be happy on the course and tomorrow's the final day."

Lee, whose sole victory on the LPGA Tour came at the Mizuno Classic in 2014, recovered from a bogey at the first hole to move into the lead. But she was unaware of her score until after the round.

"I made six birdies and one eagle, but I didn't know that," she said the 23-year-old. "So just when I checked my score at the score tent, it was a little amazing for me."

World No. 1 Lydia Ko, who made the cut by only two strokes, is also in the hunt.

She is four strokes behind after a day's best 64.

The New Zealander predicted she would need another hot round to reel in Lee and the other frontrunners.

"I think it would need to be a low one like today," she said after her bogey-free round.

REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 05, 2016, with the headline 'Thai Ariya drives into her rivals' rear view'. Print Edition | Subscribe