Hurst Miyazato Lead Wie a Shot Back

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McDonaldHAVRE DE GRACE, Md. -- Pat Hurst struggled with her putter on Saturday, but still managed an even-par 72 and is tied for the 54-hole lead with tour rookie Ai Miyazato at the LPGA Championship. Miyazato shot a 3-under 69 and joined Hurst at 7-under-par 209.
 
Michelle Wie, who unsuccessfully tried to qualify for the U.S. Open earlier in the week, birdied her last for a 1-under 71. She is tied for third place with Shi Hyun Ahn and Mi Hyun Kim, both of whom shot 71 in round three, at minus-6.
 
Lorena Ochoa
Lorena Ochoa is in search of her first major championship.
Wie, much like Hurst, had her woes with the flat stick on Saturday. She missed par putts inside 3 feet at the third and fifth holes, but no missed putt was more shocking than the one on the par-3 17th.
 
The 16-year-old hit a decent tee shot to 30 feet and Wie lagged her birdie putt inside 2 feet. She lipped out her par putt, but got it back with a 15-foot birdie putt at the last as she tries to walk off with her first victory on the LPGA Tour.
 
'It was very up-and-down and very frustrating,' admitted Wie. 'I felt like I was playing great. A couple of missed tee shots, but I felt like I was playing very solidly.'
 
One player who was not playing solidly on Saturday was three-time defending champion Annika Sorenstam. The Swede picked up a two-shot penalty on the second hole for improperly moving a piece of a divot.
 
All totaled, Sorenstam finished with a 3-over 75 and is part of a group tied for 23rd place at 1-under-par 215.
 
'I hit some bad shots, there's no doubt about it, but I also think I hit some good ones,' said Sorenstam. 'And then on top of that some silly mistakes. You just can't afford that in major championships, or really any tournament, I would say.'
 
If Sorenstam is to catch the leaders, she'll need an amazing final round on Sunday. If Hurst's putter did not let her down, this could have been a race for second place.
 
Hurst was two shots ahead through much of the front nine as Bulle Rock played more difficulty, thanks to wind. At the par-4 ninth, Hurst hit her second 25 feet short of the stick, but missed the putt and had 3 feet left for par. Hurst's par putt lipped out and ran 5 feet past the hole. She missed that as well for a four-putt double bogey.
 
She was now tied for the lead with Miyazato, who moved up the leaderboard thanks to three birdies on her front side. All players cooled off on the second nine and Hurst's putter was to blame.
 
Hurst missed a 6-foot birdie putt at the 10th, a 12-footer at the 12th, then came up almost 4 feet short in her 20-foot birdie putt at the 13th. At the 14th, Hurst's approach nearly hit the flagstick, but she missed the putt coming back from 12 feet for birdie.
 
Miyazato dropped a shot at the 14th, but reclaimed the lost shot at the 17th. She hit a 5-iron to 5 feet to set up birdie and parred the last to get into the clubhouse at minus-7.
 
Hurst again hit a spectacular iron shot to 4 feet at 15, but badly pushed her putt. She hit an errant second shot at the 16th, but saved par, keeping her tied with Miyazato and one ahead of Wie.
 
Wie, who was even at the turn, only recorded one birdie on the back side, a tap-in at the par-5 11th. She made some nice saves along the back nine, but her bogey at 17 cost her a share of the lead after she birdied No. 18.
 
Hurst had a 6-footer at the last to move one clear of Miyazato, but missed that putt right.
 
Now the stage is set for a Sunday battle with 17 players within four shots of the lead. Hurst is the only golfer in the top-5 with a major (1998 Kraft Nabisco Championship), but come Sunday, any of these young players could rise to the occasion.
 
'You take it one shot at a time and that's what I've been doing,' said Hurst. 'I just felt really relaxed out there today and I think the Solheim Cup has a lot to do with that.'
 
Miyazato burst on to the golf scene with a huge win at last year's Qualifying School. Now she's in position to become a major champion and in a familiar position. Last week, she led with one round to go at the Jersey shore and came up short.
 
'You just have to take it step by step and just because last week you were doing really well, it doesn't really change overnight or the following week,' said Miyazato, who ended up tying for 13th at the ShopRite LPGA Classic. 'And I just need to stay concentrated on my game.'
 
Wie would become the youngest major winner in history if she can hoist the trophy on Sunday. With her fairly strong play at the U.S. Open qualifier, Wie is ready for the final round.
 
'I'm very confident about my game and tomorrow I want to just shoot a really good score and see what happens,' said Wie.
 
Lorena Ochoa, the tour's leading money winner, posted a 1-under 71 and is tied with 2002 champion Se Ri Pak (71) and Jee Young Lee (70). The trio finished 54 holes at 5-under-par 211.
 
Nabisco Championship winner Karrie Webb (72), Meena Lee (69), Minea Blomqvist (70), Sherri Steinhauer (71) and Silvia Cavalleri (72) are knotted in ninth place at minus-4.
 
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