(Reuters) - Ariya Jutanugarn, eyeing a third straight LPGA Tour victory, rescued a sloppy round with a closing eagle to vault back in front after three rounds at the inaugural Volvik Championship in Michigan on Saturday.
The 36-hole leader hit a well-judged approach shot at the par-five 18th that rolled up to 15 feet, from where she sank the putt to salvage a one-over-par 73 on the Travis Pointe course in Ann Arbor.
She had scored par or better in her previous 13 rounds, in the process winning in Alabama three weeks ago to become the first Thai champion on the LPGA Tour. She followed up with another in Virginia last week.
The 20-year-old Ariya will probably need to score well on Sunday to complete the hat-trick, with four players breathing down her neck.
She has a one-stroke lead over Americans Jessica Korda (70) and Christina Kim (72), with South Korean Kim Hyo-joo (70) and Norway’s Suzann Pettersen (70) two behind.
Ariya’s bogey-free tournament ended with back-to-back bogeys at the third and fourth holes, and she dropped two more shots before steadying the ship with her first birdie of the day at the par-five 14th.
“To me it’s very hard today, because very windy, and the green is very, very firm,” Jutanugarn told reporters.
She is vying to become the first to win three straight LPGA Tour events since South Korean Park In-bee three years ago.
Korda, Pettersen and Kim Hyo-joo were the only players among the top 13 after two rounds to break par in the firm and windy conditions.
“I just kept telling myself pars were good,” said Korda, the daughter of former Australian Open men’s tennis champion Petr Korda.
“It is frustrating because you hit some great shots and they don’t end up where you think that they should.”
Reporting by Tim Wharnsby in Toronto; Editing by Andrew Both