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Wacky day in Bahamas results in Choi out front

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PARADISE ISLAND, Bahamas – All that was missing were pirate ships burning off shore.

Not since Blackbeard and Calico Jack roamed these parts has the Bahamas been witness to a wilder shootout for a substantial treasure.

The LPGA staged a free-for-all here on Paradise Island Saturday with some of the world’s best players taking turns holding the lead in the third round.

Five players held or shared the lead before Na Yeon Choi finally pulled away at day’s end.

“It was really set up for eagles today, and it was exciting,” said Rolex world No. 3 Stacy Lewis, who is among seven players within four shots of Choi going into Sunday’s final round.

Choi birdied three of the last four holes Saturday, including the 18th, to equal the low round of the day, a 7-under-par 66. At 15-under 204, she’s a shot ahead of Lizette Salas (66) and three ahead of Paula Creamer (71) and Jessica Korda (72).

Lewis (68), Amelia Lewis (66) and Monday qualifier Jenny Suh (71) are four back.

Lydia Ko (71) and Michelle Wie (72) are in a pack five back.

For Choi, Sunday is a chance to reassert her rank in the game. Choi looked poised to make a run at Rolex world No. 1 last year but never did. She never got into the conversation with No. 1 Inbee Park, No. 2 Suzann Pettersen and No. 3 Lewis, who pulled away as the game’s “Big Three.”

“When I started 2013, I was No. 2 in the world,” Choi said. “I was so much focused on being No. 1, and I forgot what I needed to do on the course and in practice.”

Choi ended the year No. 7, but she’s looking ready to win again. She prevailed on a crazy Saturday of shot making and shot shanking.

Lewis holed a wedge for eagle from 94 yards at the 13th to grab a share of the lead. Creamer holed a sand wedge from 82 yards at the 11th to make eagle and stay in the hunt.

Wie drove the sixth green with a 290-yard rocket and two putted for birdie, but she also missed her share of putts from point-blank range.

Nobody’s day was wilder than Creamer’s and Korda’s.

Korda, the second-round leader, shanked a wedge sideways and out of bounds at the 13th hole on the way to a double bogey.

“I’ve never shanked a shot in a tournament,” Korda said.

Korda, however, fought her way back, making birdie at the next hole and then carving a 5-iron from 196 yards to a foot for a closing eagle to stay in the hunt for her second LPGA title.

“It’s awesome I’m still in it,” Korda said.

Korda’s last shot at the 18th was made even more dramatic by the fact that she followed Creamer’s spectacular shot there. Creamer, who had her share of woe on Saturday, knocked a 5-wood from 209 yards to about 2 ½ feet at the closing hole. Korda stepped up and then hit hers inside Creamer. They both eagled. It means the duo will play together for a fourth consecutive day, this time in the second-to-last pairing, in front of the leaders.

“It was a roller-coaster day,” Creamer said.

Creamer pulled her tee shot at the 15th left into a hazard and made triple bogey.

“Overall, I’m proud of the way I finished,” Creamer said.

So was Salas, who has battled the flu for two days.

“The fact that I've been feeling a little under the weather kind of just makes my mind blank and just helps me focus on targets and just having fun,” said Salas, who is seeking her first LPGA title. “I'd rather be playing than lying in bed and feeling sorry for myself.”

Lewis, the highest ranked player in the field, would like nothing better than to send a message to No. 1 Park and No. 2 Pettersen with a win on Sunday.

“I definitely think it would [send a message],” Lewis said. “I think just playing well here, I think that would send a message. I don't know how much golf they're actually watching right now. They probably aren't paying attention to it, knowing those two.”

Beating a stellar leaderboard like this one will get a lot of people’s attention come Sunday.

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