Third-ranked Lewis charges into LPGA lead

Posted at 09/23/2012 8:28 AM

PRATTVILLE, Alabama - American Stacy Lewis birdied four of the first five holes in firing a seven-under par 65 to grab a two-stroke lead after Saturday's third round of the $1.3 million Navistar LPGA Classic.

World No. 3 Lewis matched the low round of the week at the Robert Trent Jones Trail course with a bogey-free day to stand on 15-under 201 after 54 holes with compatriot Angela Stanford second on 203 after a third-round 68.

Lewis opened with back-to-back birdies and added another set at the fourth and fifth holes. She closed the front nine with a birdie, added another at the par-4 11th from 15 feet and made her last at the par-3 16th.

"I made some birdies early and just kind of coasted from there," Lewis said. "I got off to a good start, two birdies and barely missed on three. And I hit them close. It just calmed me down and got some trust in my game."

Lewis had been unhappy with her back nine on Friday, which included eight pars and a bogey, and focused on her swing alignment and small details ahead of round three, keeping her so concentrated on herself she did not notice she led.

"I didn't look at the leaderboard until 18," Lewis said. "I just had to take care of my business."

US rookie Lizette Salas fired a 70 to put herself in the final trio on Sunday on 204 in quest of her first LPGA title.

"It's going to happen," Salas said. "You just have to prepare yourself. I was all over the place here but tomorrow is another day. It would mean a lot to me."

Another stroke back were South Koreans Haeji Kang and M.J. Hur with Australian Sarah Jane Smith, South Korean Hee Young Park and US teen star Lexi Thompson sharing sixth on 205.

Defending champion Thompson, who led after the second round, stumbled to a 72. She took a bogey at the sixth, answered with a birdie at 11 but followed with a double bogey at the 12th and bogey at 13 before a final birdie at 15.

Lewis seeks her third title of the year after taking the Shoprite LPGA Classic in June and the Mobile Bay LPGA Classic in April, where she held off a final round charge by 17-year-old Thompson for a one-stroke triumph.

After Sunday's final round, the tour moves to Asia with events next month in Malaysia, South Korea and Taiwan and another at Japan in November before a tournament in Mexico and the season-ending LPGA Titleholders event in Florida.

© 1994-2012 Agence France-Presse