KAPOLEI, HAWAII - While a slew of clever iron approaches and putts provided Suzann Pettersen with another solid round on Hawaiian turf, it was a key save from the sand that ultimately gave her the lead.
After finding a sizable bunker with her second shot on the par-4 17th, Pettersen chipped out to within two feet of the hole, putted for par, and maintained a one-shot lead at 14-under to cap Friday's third round of the LPGA Lotte Championship at Ko Olina Golf Club in Kapolei, West Oahu. The weather changed for the third consecutive day, as light rain showers and overcast skies provided intermittent respites from the tropical heat, and appeared to aid in the golfers' scoring ability.
Pettersen, a 10-year tour veteran, turned in a 4-under 68, her third consecutive sub-70 round this week. Pettersen drained five birdies, including three straight to begin the round, after notching 13 birdies in her first two rounds combined.
The No. 6 player on tour is now in position to collect her 11th career tour win. The native of Norway has credited multiple factors for her success in Hawaii, including new shoes that allow her to "feel the green" better, and an aggressive putting stroke that has her attacking holes on the course's generally slow greens.
South Korean Hee Kyung Seo, the 2011 Rookie of the Year, used an eagle and six birdies to post a 66 and pull to within a shot of the lead at 13-under-par.
Her iron game was spot-on as shown by Seo's second shot from behind a bunker on the par-4 15th, which plopped down just a few feet away from the cup leading to a tap-in putt for birdie.
However, a bogey on the par-4 18th, caused in part by an errant second shot that sank into a bunker behind the green, solidified her second-place standing.
Ai Miyazato, the No. 9 player in the Rolex Rankings and the event's defending champion, turned in another consistent effort of 2-under 70 after going 5-under and 4-under in the first two rounds. She now stands three shots off the lead in third place at 11-under, and leads Hyo Joo Kim (-10) by a stroke.
Second-ranked Stacy Lewis carded a 3-under 69 to pull into a three-way fifth-place tie at 9-under. The two-time winner in 2013 can regain the No. 1 ranking with a victory this week.
Lizette Salas posted an impressive 5-under round, and vaulted up to 9-under-par after starting the day tied for 13th. She was buoyed by a run of five birdies in seven holes on the front nine, and finished the round with just one bogey.
Following the round, she credited the recent switch back to a traditional, short putter from the anchored "belly" club she had been using with aiding her strong run this week.
Thailand's Ariya Jutanugarn, a rookie on the Ladies European Tour, remains in the hunt and rounds out the group at 9-under-par, two days after shooting a tournament record-tying 8-under 64, which resulted in her owning the lead after the first round. The 17-year-old shot 4-under Friday on the heels of five birdies, two of which came on the final two holes.
American Jessica Korda moved up to within six shots of the lead after posting a 6-under 66 to move to 8-under. She has two top-10 finishes in 2013, and looks to add to her one career LPGA victory.
Top-ranked Inbee Park also sits in a tie for eighth place with Korda and Jodi Ewart Shadoff after shooting 67 to improve to 8-under-par. The South Korean took over the No. 1 ranking Monday following her victory at the Kraft Nabisco Championship two weeks ago.
Notes: Beatriz Recari continued her incredible run of consistency, as the "Iron Woman," as fellow golfers have dubbed her, shot an even-par 72, and moved into 11th place at 7-under. The native of Pamplona, Spain, has now played in 59 consecutive LPGA events over a two-and-a-half year period, and has made 40 consecutive cuts. ... Tour veteran Se Ri Pak shot a 1-under 66, and the LPGA and World Golf Halls of Fame member sits in a tie for 12th place at 6-under-par. ... The remaining field of 77 is competing for a share of the event's $1.7 million prize purse, which includes a $225,000 winner's check.