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LPGA: Big names lurk behind 3 leaders

The SportsXchange

NAPLES, Fla. -- The three leaders after the third round of the CME Group Titleholders, Natalie Gulbis, Pornanong Phatlum and Gerina Piller, have a combined one victory on the LPGA Tour.

Among the players chasing the trio are Stacy Lewis, Lexi Thompson, Inbee Park and Cristie Kerr. Those in the top 10 have a combined 45 victories.

Needless to say, the final round on Sunday should be interesting.

Gulbis posted a 7-under-par 65, her best round of the season by three shots, while Phatlum and Piller equaled her total of 11-under-par by shooting bogey-free 67s.

"I haven't been playing well, so with three weeks off I was at home (in Las Vegas) working with Butch (Harmon)," said Gulbis, whose only LPGA victory came in the 2007 Evian Masters.

"When you're not playing well, it's nice to get a few weeks off to work on fundamentals. ... I love being in contention. It's fun, it's why we're out here. I love to compete."

Lewis holed her second shot with a five iron from 175 yards for an eagle on No. 2 en route to a tournament record 63, and was two strokes back in a tie for fourth.

Thompson and Shanshan Feng of China both had 67s to finish in that tie for fourth along with Sandra Gal of Germany, who led the first two days but struggled to a 74 in round three as she battled back spasms.

Park, No. 1 in the Rolex Women's World Golf Rankings, carded a 69 and was tied for ninth.

Lydia Ko, the 16-year-old phenom from New Zealand who won four pro tournaments as an amateur, shot 72 and was tied for 25th in her first event as a pro.

It has been quite the social week for Gulbis, who played in a pro-am, shot a TV a commercial, met with fans at a restaurant and being a hostess for Golf Channel at the season-ending Rolex Awards Show.

Gulbis also is getting married next month.

So much for being distracted.

It beats earlier this season, when she battled malaria in the first tournament of the year, missed a handful of tournaments and needed almost half of the year to fully recover.

"Many of you guys know me and I'm not very good at resting," Gulbis said. "(Doctors) said you're probably going to battle this for the

next six months and you should probably take the next two months and just relax.

"So I thought that if I cut that in half and then cut that in half, that I could probably get back for that. So I kept on trying to get back and play, and every single time I would get back out and play, it would relapse and they would say, we told you this was going to happen."

Gulbis holds the only official LPGA event of the three leaders. Phatlum won an unofficial event in Brazil while Piller's best finish is a tie for fifth earlier this season.

When Lewis teed off with the first group Saturday morning, she trailed by 11 shots. When she walked off the 18th green, she was tied for the lead.

"I didn't think I was out of it," said Lewis, who made four birdies in a row and six in a span of seven holes through No. 17. "Anything is possible. You just gotta hang in there. ... When I got to 5-under, I looked at the leaderboard and thought If I could make a few more, I could be right up there.

"Then, everything started going in. I knew I had to have a good score to have a chance to win tomorrow. I just have to go out there and make it happen."

After building a three-shot lead, Gal ran into trouble early with a double-bogey and bogey in her first four holes. She admitted being bothered by a tight back from the start and was happy to persevere.

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