Perfect Park in pole position but Ko and Lewis lurk

Reuters News
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Posted: Mar 07, 2015 5:14 AM

SINGAPORE (Reuters) - The top three players in women's golf will square off for the HSBC Champions title on Sunday with South Korean Park In-bee holding a two-shot advantage over world number one Lydia Ko and American Stacy Lewis.

Five-times major winner Park put herself in prime position to claim one of the few titles missing from her glittering resume by producing a third bogey-free round of the week as she fired a four-under-par 68 on Saturday for a 13-under 203 total.

New Zealand teen Ko and world number three Lewis were tied at 11-under after both made the most of slightly cooler temperatures in steamy Singapore to fire 67s.

Spaniard Carlota Ciganda, who shared the overnight lead with Park, slipped down into a tie for eighth after a two-over 74 left her at seven-under for the $1.4 million championship.

Her compatriot Azahara Munoz (70) and Scandinavians Suzann Pettersen (68) and Anna Nordqvist (68) were tied fourth at nine-under but they appear to be too far back to mount a challenge against the smooth-swinging Park.

The tricky Serapong Course on Sentosa Island has tripped up many but the South Korean has negotiated her way around 54 bogey free holes in an exemplary display.

"I hit a lot of shots really close and probably could have made a couple two, three more. Hopefully my putter works tomorrow," the Korean said.

She opened Saturday's third round with five straight pars before picking up two consecutive birdies at the par-four sixth and the generous par-five seventh to move ahead of the big-hitting Ciganda.

But while Park continued to churn out the solid pars, the Spaniard wilted with four bogey fives in seven holes from the 10th to fall away.

The 17-year-old Ko, who became golf's youngest world number one when she surpassed Park in the rankings in January, matched the Korean's consistency with two birdies on the front nine before two more at the start of her back nine.

Ko, looking for her third consecutive tournament win after successes in Australia and at home in New Zealand, closed out her round with another at 18 to boost her chances.

"That would be a dream three weeks, but I'm just going to try my best," she said.

Lewis, who topped the world rankings last year, also birdied the par five 18th -- one of six birdies in her round with three coming in the last four holes.

The 2014 LPGA Player of the Year was buzzing at the prospect of being in the final three-ball on Sunday.

"It will be great fun," she told reporters. "It's great for the fans and for our Tour. This leaderboard all week has been unbelievable.

"Just a ton of really good players up in the mix, and you know, this golf course, we have got to be careful."

(Reporting by Patrick Johnston; editing by Sudipto Ganguly)