That being said, Michelle Simpson is taking no chances. The New Smyrna Beach, Fla., resident has led every round of the tournament and will carry a two-shot lead into the final day of competition Saturday.
At the beginning of the week coming in the top 30 was not necessary a thought, Simpson said. You start thinking about how you need to finish in the top 30, and then you finish 31st. My goal was to come here and play good golf for four days.
She has been doing exactly that. The 24-year-old carded her third consecutive round under par'the only player in the field to do so'with a 1-under 71. She stands at 5-under-par 211 after 54 holes and leads second place Mikaela Parmlid of Gothenburg, Sweden by two.
Simpson got off to a hot start to open the third round as she birdied three of her first five holes to set an early tone. She would make the turn at 1-under-par 35 after bogies on seven and eight, but played even par golf coming home to finish under par. She closed almost as well as she began with a birdie on 16 and had a near miss on 18 for another birdie.
I did what I wanted to do today, she said. I left a couple of shots out there and had a few hiccups after the good start, but I had some good up and downs in the middle of the round that helped me.
Simpson knows she does not have to post an ultra-low number during the final round and that she just has to continue to play smart golf as she navigates the final 18 holes.
I am going to keep the same attitude I have had all week and try to do the same thing tomorrow and keep it in the red, Simpson said. If the birdies come, thats great, but I am not going to get too frustrated out there.
Mary Kay Marino from Scottsdale, Ariz., is in third with a 54-hole total of 214, while Koreas Il Mi Chung sits in fourth at 1-under-par 215. Cherie Byrnes from Horizons Resort, Australia, Kristen Bloomer from Moberly, Mo., and Canadas Heather Lee are tied for fifth at 1-over-par 217.
The Rancho Mirage qualifier is the second of the LPGA Tours two sectional qualifying events in 2003. The first LPGA Tour Sectional Qualifying Tournament was Aug. 26-29 at Plantation Golf and Country Club in Venice, Fla. The top 30 finishers from the California qualifier will join the Venice sectional qualifiers, current LPGA Tour members attempting to improve their status and the five players who finished sixth through 10th on the final 2003 Futures Tour money list at the LPGA Final Qualifying Tournament.