Pak Pettersen Tied Creamer Just One Back

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RANCHO MIRAGE, Calif. -- Se Ri Pak kept her mistakes to a minimum, finished with a 35-foot birdie putt and now stands one round away from becoming the seventh woman to complete the career Grand Slam.
 
Lorena Ochoa made a whopper of a mistake that might cost her a chance to win her first major and move to No. 1 in the world.
 
The 25-year-old Mexican star whiffed a flop shot on her way to a quadruple bogey on the par-3 17th hole Saturday, leaving Pak and Suzann Pettersen atop the leaderboard at the Kraft Nabisco Championship in a major no one seems to want to win.
 
If Saturday was any indication, the tournament could come down to who doesn't lose it.
 
Pak overcame some short-game gaffes over the closing holes with a birdie putt from the back of the green that dropped on its final turn, leaving her with a 2-under 70 and a chance to capture the last leg of the Grand Slam.
 
Pettersen chipped to 18 inches for tap-in birdie on the 18th for a 71 that allowed her to join Pak at 4-under 212.
 
When a wild day in the desert finally came to a close, the Kraft Nabisco was up for grabs.
 
Paula Creamer had a wedge into the par-5 18th and walked off with a three-putt bogey for a 73 that put her one shot behind along with Meaghan Francella (69). Big-hitting Brittany Lincicome eagled the final hole for a 71 and was another shot behind.
 
But the buzz came from Ochoa, for all the wrong reasons.
 
She was 3 under and one shot behind on the 17th when her 6-iron clipped a tree and her pitch to a back left pin went long into grass so deep she could barely see the ball. Trying to hit a flop shot, the club slid under the ball without moving it. Her fourth shot ran down the ridge some 45 feet away. Three putts later she had a 7 on her card and was no longer in the top 10.
 
Ochoa wound up with a 77 and was five shots behind.
 
'I was one behind, and suddenly I'm way back,' Ochoa said in clipped answers, still seething over her bad fortune. 'I'm OK. I'm happy to be here for tomorrow. I'm glad I'll be playing behind now. I have nothing to lose. Hopefully, I'll put pressure on the leaders.'
 
There was plenty of pressure in the third round, most of that coming from a baked course at Mission Hills that put a high premium on keeping the ball in the short grass.
 
Five players had at least a share of the lead at one point on a blistering hot afternoon.
 
Pak, who has never finished higher than ninth in this major, got to 5 under with an approach that hit the flag and settled 2 feet away on the 13th to take the lead. Then came a couple of bogeys, electing to use putter from short of the green on the 15th, and flubbing a chip over a hump in the fringe on the 17th that made her work for bogey.
 
But she was all smiles leaving the 18th after her big birdie, and knows exactly what is at stake Sunday.
 
'You can't really think of that out,' Pak said. 'There's just so much trouble out there. Even par is a good score.'
 
One advantage for Pak?
 
Of the top 15 players on the leaderboard, she is the only one to have captured a major.
 
'I don't really have much pressure because I've been there a lot of times,' she said.
 
It will be a first for Pettersen, the feisty Norwegian who missed eighth months a few years ago with a back injury. She managed a relatively quiet round, picking up birdies on two par 5s, limiting her mistake to only the 13th hole when it took her four shots to reach the green during some adventures in the high grass.
 
The surprise in many cases is Francella.
 
The only time the 24-year-old rookie had been to Mission Hills was for Q-school, and she wasn't even in the tournament until beating Annika Sorenstam in a playoff in Mexico earlier this month.
 
'Anything that happens after I got in would be a bonus,' she said.
 
She will play in the final group with Pak and Pettersen.
 
Sorenstam, meanwhile, turned into another face in the crowd. After her worst 36-hole start in a major since she was an amateur, the Swede teed off on the back nine, shot 71 and was 10 shots behind.
 
'When you're teeing off on the 10th hole in a major, it doesn't feel like you're in a major anymore,' Sorenstam said. 'I didn't have a single butterfly today. It's not like I'm out there focusing on the score, what it should be and what it is now.'
 
Creamer has never held a 54-hole lead or played in the final group at a major, and it was there for the taking when she had wedge into the par-5 18th. But she went long onto the fringe, blew her putt some 6 feet by the hole and took bogey.
 
Still, she has a great chance -- along with so many others.
 
'The last five groups, there's going to be a lot of us in contention,' she said.
 
Indeed, there were 13 players separated by five shots going into the final round, and Ochoa is one of them. Her hopes are buoyed by last year, when Karrie Webb came from seven shots behind on the final day to win a playoff.
 
'I'm waiting for something special tomorrow,' Ochoa said.
 
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