Neumann Regains Top Spot

By Sports NetworkNovember 12, 2005, 5:00 pm
Ladies Professional Golf AssociationMOBILE, Ala. -- First-round leader Liselotte Neumann reclaimed first place after Saturday's third round of the Mitchell Company Tournament of Champions. She shot a 5-under 67 at the Magnolia Grove Golf Course and has a one-shot lead with an 11-under-par 205.
Defending champion Heather Daly-Donofrio posted a 4-under 68 in round three and is in position to join Se Ri Pak as the only players to successfully defend their titles. She is tied for second place at minus-10 with overnight co-leaders Christina Kim and Rachel Hetherington, both of whom carded rounds of even-par 72.
Juli Inkster fired a 4-under 68 and is alone in fifth place at minus-8. Angela Stanford shot a 2-under 70 and has sole possession of sixth at 7-under-par 209.
The field for this tournament includes winners from the past four seasons as well as active LPGA Tour and World Golf Halls of Fame members. The participating players own a combined 222 LPGA victories.
The Swede Neumann fell out of the lead on Friday when she only managed an even-par 72. She started Saturday's third round four out of the lead, but worked quickly to erase that deficit.
The former Solheim Cupper birdied three holes in a row from the second, then added another birdie at the par-5 sixth. Neumann dropped a shot at the par-3 eighth for the second time in as many days, but now the Swede was back in the mix.
At the par-4 12th, Neumann rolled in an 18-foot birdie putt to go to 10-under par and take a one-shot lead. Kim would eventually catch her, but Neumann reclaimed the top spot on the leaderboard at the par-5 16th.
Her drive came to rest in the rough, but she got enough club on the ball that it landed on the putting surface. Neumann's ball rolled to the top of a ridge guarding the flag, but did not have enough behind it and the ball came back to 45 feet. She lagged her birdie try 2 feet short and converted the birdie putt to move one ahead at minus-11.
The lead would be short-lived for Neumann. Her tee ball at the par-3 17th ran to the back fringe and she blasted her birdie putt 4 feet past the hole. Neumann missed the comebacker for par and after Kim birdied 16, Neumann trailed by a stroke.
At the difficult closing hole, Neumann knocked her approach 25 feet left of the stick. She ran home the birdie try to once again reach 11 under par, and when Kim bogeyed 17, Neumann was alone atop the leaderboard.
'I hit the ball pretty well. I kept in play off the tee and hit a lot of great irons into the green,' said Neumann, the 1988 U.S. Women's Open Champion and 13-time winner on the LPGA Tour. 'I'm hanging in there. It's still a lot of fun.'
Daly-Donofrio was only one-under on her round until she made the turn. At the 11th, she hit her approach inside a foot to set up birdie, then made it two in a row with a chip-in birdie at the 12th.
Daly-Donofrio hit her third shot at the par-5 16th to 2 feet and kicked in the birdie putt. She is one shot out of the lead as she attempts to join Pak, who turned the trick in 2001 and 2002, as the only back-to-back winners in tournament history.
'I've been making a lot of birdies,' said Daly-Donofrio. 'I'm going to need some birdies tomorrow because there are a lot of great players right at the top.'
Kim double bogeyed four, but atoned for the error with a birdie at the sixth. She joined Neumann in the lead when she rolled in a 15-foot birdie putt at the 15th, then found herself alone in first when she nearly holed a 60-foot eagle try at 16. Kim tapped in for birdie, but like many before her, struggled at the 17th.
Her tee ball hit close to the cup, but rolled through the green. Kim hit an ugly chip that stopped four feet from the hole. She missed that putt to fall to 10 under par.
'The last couple of days have been really good for me,' said Kim. 'Today just wasn't as high a quality. I'm one shot out and you never know what can happen come Sunday.'
Hetherington was 2-over but birdied the 15th for the third time this week. She converted a 6-foot birdie putt at the 16th to get within one.
Jeong Jang (68), Marisa Baena (69), Paula Creamer (71) and Hee-Won Han (73) are knotted in seventh place at 5-under-par 211.
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