Diana Luna fired a third-round of two-under 68 at Chantaco Golf Club on Saturday to take a three stroke lead into the final round of the Lacoste Ladies Open de France.
The 29-year-old Italian ended the day on 11 under par ahead of Anne-Lise Caudal, Carlota Ciganda and Stacey Keating.
Luna has finished second at this tournament the last two years. She lost a play-off to Felicity Johnson at Paris International 12 months ago and to Trish Johnson the previous year at the same golf club.
She is hoping that it will be third time lucky on Sunday as she goes in pursuit of her sixth Ladies European Tour title and her first since the Deutsche Bank Ladies Swiss Open in June 2011.
Luna said: “I’ve lost play-offs twice here in France and haven’t yet lifted the cup, but there are no Johnsons on the leader board today so hopefully this year is my chance!”
Two clear of Keating at the start of the day, Luna extended her lead to four strokes after making three birdies in a row from the third, where she almost had a hole-in-one.
She moved further ahead with a birdie on the seventh and was six clear after Keating bogeyed 11 and 12, but then dropped a shot at the 14th.
Luna had a three stroke lead coming down the last and retained that after she and Keating both bogeyed 18.
“I hit 16 greens in regulation today so I’ve been playing very good,” Luna said.
Frenchwoman Anne-Lise Caudal moved up into a share of second with a third-round 67. She bogeyed the first but made four birdies in a row from the fourth. She dropped two shots in the middle of the round but recovered with an eagle on 15.
“I know I can shoot low on this golf course so I have quite a good chance,” said Caudal, from Ciboure, Saint-Jean-de-Luz. “This would be the best win ever. It’s the French Open and in my home town.”
The 2012 UniCredit Ladies German Open champion hopes that Ryder Cup Captain José María Olazábal from nearby Fuenterrabia across the border in Spain would be out to watch her on the final day and potentially hand her the trophy at the prize giving ceremony.
Carlota Ciganda, from Pamplona in Spain, is another relatively local player and has played a few rounds of golf with the winning Ryder Cup Captain.
She started with a bogey but picked up four shots at the third, sixth, 15th and 17th for a round of three-under 67.
“I think the tournament is four days so you need to be patient and hit one shot at a time. There is one more day tomorrow and I need to stay very patient. I’m playing good and if the putts drop I think I can win the tournament so I’ll try my best,” Ciganda, who won the Deloitte Ladies Open earlier this year in Holland.
First-round leader Keating will be going for her second straight title after winning the Spanish Open in Tenerife a fortnight ago. She held on to second place after a rollercoaster third round of 69, featuring four birdies, an eagle and five bogeys.
“Anything can happen and that gap, that can change in three holes, can’t it, so we’ll see” said Keating. I feel like I’m playing well enough I just need to hole the putts.”
Thailand’s Titiya Plucksataporn, Spain’s Azahara Munoz and Hannah Jun of the United States are a shot further behind in a share of ninth on seven under par.
Plucksataporn entered the frame with a 66 that include only 23 putts and said: “I’ve been practising on the putting green a lot and I’m trying to read the greens: that is my key for this week. I think it’s very important to get the pace correct.”
Meanwhile, Azahara Munoz will be playing aggressively in her attempt to lift her third career trophy and her second this year.
“I need to go super low but why not? I’m playing really well and I’m starting to roll the better so hopefully I can give it a chance,” she said.
Lorena Ochoa felt that she played much better in the third round having warmed up over the first two days.
She started with a pair of bogeys on the first and the fourth but made four birdies from the seventh for a two-under 68 to end in a share of 19th on one under-par for the tournament, ten shots behind the leader.
“For sure today was a little bit better. I didn’t get the best start but I was able to turn around and make a few birdies on the back nine and it really made a difference. Now I’m under par for the tournament and I’m happy to say that,” Ochoa said.
“Everything has changed for me: I’m hitting the ball a little bit shorter, I don’t have the same feel or the same touch around the greens and I made a few mistakes with my putter, so I think today was a better day. I’m starting to feel more comfortable. Hopefully tomorrow to say goodbye we can have a low round and really enjoy it.”
Final round play will start from two-tees on Sunday, with the leading trio Luna, Caudal and Ciganda starting from the first hole at 11am.