RANCHO MIRAGE (California) • Former champion Lexi Thompson fired six birdies in a five-under 67 to emerge from a marathon on Saturday with a two-shot lead at the ANA Inspiration.
Her 13-under total of 203 put her two in front of Norway's Suzann Pettersen going into the final round of the year's first women's golf Major championship at Mission Hills Country Club in Rancho Mirage, California.
She was among about 50 players who had to return on Saturday morning to complete the second round, the knock-on effect of the delays for high winds on Thursday.
The disruption did the 2014 winner no harm as she produced back-to-back birdies at the seventh and eighth - her 16th and 17th holes of the second round en route to a 67 and the 36-hole lead.
"I struggled a little bit off the tee and had a few more rushed shots than I wanted, but overall a lot of positives," said the 22-year-old.
Pettersen nabbed her sixth birdie of the third round at the 18th hole, capping a 68 for sole possession of second place on 205.
Total score by Lexi Thompson after three rounds at the ANA Inspiration, the year's first Major for women's golf. The 2014 champion made six birdies for a 67 to take a two-shot lead heading in to the final round.
South Korea's Hur Mi Jung, Ryu So Yeon and Park In Bee and Australian Minjee Lee were a further stroke back.
Ariya Jutanugarn, who has Lydia Ko's world No. 1 ranking in her sights, was in a group sharing seventh place on 208.
Ariya's 68 was highlighted by an eagle at the par-five 11th, with five birdies also offsetting three early bogeys.
The 21-year-old Thai, who suffered a final round collapse in the tournament last year, said she plans to take a relaxed approached.
"Tomorrow I think it's going to be a tough day," she said of this morning's (Singapore time) final round.
"I just want to go have fun and enjoy every shot I hit the ball."
Ariya was joined on eight-under by France's Karine Icher (68) and Americans Cristie Kerr (70) and Michelle Wie (71).
Defending champion Ko did not make much headway with a 71. The New Zealander had two birdies and a bogey for a share of 11th place on 211.