MELBOURNE (Reuters) - Newly crowned world number one Lydia Ko shot a one-under-par 72 on Saturday to retain a share of the lead heading into the final round of the women’s Australian Open, the third event on this year’s LPGA Tour.
The 17-year-old from New Zealand had three birdies and two bogeys to finish at seven-under on a hot and humid day at Royal Melbourne.
“You hit in on to the green and you have this humongous break,” Ko told reporters. “It’s tough in every aspect ... it does feel like a major.”
Ko finished the round tied with another teen, Thailand’s Ariya Jutanugarn, who also shot 72 after starting her day with a bogey on the first hole.
South Korea’s Amy Yang carded a 70 to be outright third, one shot behind the leading pair at six-under while Juliette Granada of Paraguay and Australia’s Katherine Kirk were a further two shots back.
Both shot rounds of 70 with Granada reeling off four birdies in her last 11 holes after making a double bogey on the par-three fifth and Kirk making five bogeys in six holes on the back nine.
“I’m very happy with it because it’s not easy to make birdies out there and I made six,” Kirk said.
“I made two long putts and they’re just bonuses but that’s probably as good as it gets today.”
South Korea’s Jang Ha-na, who had started the day level with Ko and Jutanugarn, fell four shots behind after a 76.
Less than three weeks ago, Ko became the youngest golfer to hold top spot in the world rankings when she tied for second place at the LPGA’s season-opening event in Florida.
Tiger Woods had previously held the record when he reached number one in 1997 at 21, while Shin Ji-yai held the women’s record after reaching top spot in 2010 aged 22.
Reporting by Julian Linden in Singapore; editing by Amlan Chakraborty