Golf: Ueda stays in front at Japan Classic as Atthaya fades

Momoko Ueda carded a 68 in the third round to move to 14-under 202. PHOTO: AFP

OTSU, Japan – Momoko Ueda maintained her one-shot lead on Saturday heading into the final day of the LPGA Japan Classic, as new world No. 1 Atthaya Thitikul’s challenge faded.

Japanese veteran Ueda – ranked 85th in the world – carded a 68 in the third round to move to 14-under 202 and keep her nose in front of Scotland’s Gemma Dryburgh (65) at Seta Golf Course, in western Shiga Prefecture.

Thai Atthaya, who started the day four shots off the lead, hit three bogeys and two birdies for a 73 to drop back to five-under, nine shots adrift of Ueda.

The teenager is playing her first tournament since becoming the second-youngest world No. 1 in women’s golf history last week, following a stunning debut year on the LPGA Tour.

Ueda hit seven birdies and three bogeys and kept her cool despite a furious charge up the leaderboard from Dryburgh.

“I tried to stay calm today even though I made a bogey, and tried not to regret it during the round,” said the 36-year-old.

“I will try to be as steady as possible tomorrow – not too aggressive, not too conservative.”

Dryburgh, ranked 199th in the world, reeled off four birdies in a row and eight overall to go with her one bogey.

The 29-year-old said that “everything was working pretty well” for her as she looks to hunt down Ueda on the final day.

“Obviously the aim is to win, but anything that happens, just go with the flow,” she said.

“Just do my best and see where it ends up.”

Dryburgh was one shot in front of Japan’s Miyu Yamashita (69), who had a two-shot cushion ahead of Japanese trio Yuna Nishimura (67), Saiki Fujita (69) and Sakura Koiwai (70), Sweden’s Linn Grant (67) and South Korea’s Lee Jeong-eun (69).

Grant said she was spurred on by tension.

“I tend to get better the more nervous I get,” she said.

“Playing in one of the later groups, probably will be seeing some good golf, too, so I will feel like I have to play well,” she added, as she looked ahead to the final day. AFP

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