MOBILE, Ala. – Norway’s Suzann Pettersen shot a 7-under 65 on Saturday for a share of the lead with Brittany Lincicome and Se Ri Pak in the Bell Micro LPGA Classic.
Pettersen followed two birdies with an eagle on the par-5 sixth, and joined Lincicome (67) and second-round leader Pak (68) at 13 under on the Crossings Course at Magnolia Grove, part of the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail.
A six-time winner on the LPGA , Pettersen once again is in contention after finishing second twice and third once in the first five events of the season.
But six players were within two shots of the lead, setting up a last-day scramble.
“With all those names at the top of the leaderboard, nobody’s going to back down,” said Lincicome, the long-hitting 24-year-old Floridian. “Nobody’s going to shoot a high number. A lot of the long hitters are at the top. Sixty-five would be nice.”
It was certainly enough for Pettersen to make a big move. She lost by a stroke to Yani Tseng in the Kraft Nabisco Championship, but has gone 35 holes without a bogey.
“I’ve been feeling good all year,” said Pettersen, dealing with a nagging hip injury. “I’ve been playing really good. I’ve been outplayed a couple of times when I felt like what I had was going to be good enough, but that’s this game. That’s the beauty of this game.”
The trio and others will jockey for the win with a two-tee morning start Sunday because bad weather is forecast for the afternoon.
Na Yeon Choi (66), Jee Young Lee (66) and Azahara Munoz (67) were 11 under. Michelle Wie had a 76 to drop to 5 over, last among the 73 players who made the cut.
Pettersen pulled even with Pak by opening the back nine with two more birdies and briefly took the lead with another birdie on No. 15. Pak answered right back on No. 16 with her only birdie of the back nine.
As for Pettersen’s torn hip muscle, she said the doctor prescribed rest but that’s not in the cards quite yet.
“It’s not ideal, but I can make it work,” Pettersen said.
Pak’s 68 kept the Hall of Famer under 70 for the third straight round and in position for her 25th win and first since the 2007 Owens Corning Classic. She won the Tournament of Champions on the same course in 2001 and 2002.
Pak had three birdies on the front 9, and like Pettersen she turned in a bogey-free day.
“There’s nothing I can do special, just go out there and play like I did the last three days,” Pak said. “This golf course fit perfectly this week. I feel really happy about the way I’m playing. No complaints at all.”
She has no complaints about the scenario either. “I think this is a better way to start the final round because sometimes leading by one or two shots, you’re really having a lot of pressure,” Pak said.
Lincicome overcame an opening bogey. Her 30-plus foot eagle putt on No. 6 more than wiped that out.
“I started out a little rough,” she said. “I was a little nervous. It took a couple of holes to get into a rhythm.
“I’m going to keep doing the same things I’m doing and focus on my tempo. The only time I hit a bad shot is when I get a little quick. I’m just going to take a lot of deep breaths and calm myself down.”
And maybe listen to her 10-year-old nephew, who predicted her score.
“The air conditioning temperature in the car on the drive here was 67 this morning, so he said I was going to shoot a 67,” Lincicome said. “I just need him to pick a number for me (Sunday).”
Pettersen has revised her pre-tournament estimate about what score it might take to win on a course that underwent substantial renovations last year.
“I thought about 15-16 (under) would be a good number, but I think you’ve got to go low (Sunday),” she said. “There’s reachable par 5s and some shorter par 4s.
“I think you need another really low one.”
Choi fell back with a bogey on the final hole. It was her seventh bogey of the first three days.
Munoz, a 22-year-old rookie from Spain, shot a 67 to rebound from a 6-over round Friday and put herself back in contention going into the finale.
“Of course I’m going to be nervous,” she said. “But this is the spot you want to be in. This is what you practice for.”