|From left: Suzann Pettersen, Carlota Ciganda, Inbee Park and their caddies
World No.4 Inbee Park of South Korea took the edge after a hotly contested third round at the Mission Hills World Ladies Championship in Haikou, southern China, on Saturday.
Park began the day with a one stroke lead but lost it to Ciganda after three holes. However, the 24-year-old from Seoul regained her lead after four birdies on the back nine, firing a third round 69 to end 14 under and take a two shot lead into the final round.
Park said: “I had a really bad start today, I bogeyed two of the first four holes but I’m happy with the way I finished today with five birdies after the two bogies. That’s very good momentum going into tomorrow. I’m just a little bit disappointed with my ball striking; it wasn’t as good as yesterday but my putting was getting much better.
“The golf course is playing a bit firmer today – I think because it was in the afternoon and was a bit drier so it was a little bit different condition for putting and I think that worked out a little bit better for me.”
Meanwhile, Norway’s World No.8 Suzann Pettersen shot a second successive 67 and lies in second position on 12 under par.
Pettersen said: “I played decent golf today but a bit disappointing not finishing stronger on the last hole. I have a lot of faith in my game, I’m playing good golf and excited that I have one more round.”
South Korea’s Soo Jin Yang lies in third on 10 under, while Ciganda dropped to fourth on eight under after taking a triple bogey seven on the 17th hole.
Ciganda, who fired a course record 63 on Friday, made a great start with two birdies in her first five holes and was leading for most of the day, but was disappointed to have slipped six shots back from the lead after her triple bogey on the penultimate hole.
A battle of the future superstars is set for Sunday’s final round with 17-year-old rookies Ariya Jutanugarn and Hyo-Joo Kim, who are locked in a share of fifth place on seven under par, playing together. They are tied with Italian Veronica Zorzi and Korea’s Bo-Mi Suh.
Jutanugarn is a rookie on the Ladies European Tour this season while Kim is in her rookie year on the China LPGA Tour. Jutanugarn has twice finished runner-up in four starts in professional tournaments this season, while Kim already has two wins on the KLPGA, one of which was co-sanctioned with the China LPGA and one on the LPGA of Japan.
Fellow 17-year-old LET rookie Xiyu Lin is the best placed Chinese player in a share of ninth place on six under with Frenchwoman Gwladys Nocera and Dewi-Claire Schreefel of the Netherlands, while the defending champion Shanshan Feng is a shot further behind in 12th place. Interestingly, Feng and Lin will fight to finish as the top Chinese player whilst they play together in the same group.
With a combined aggregate score of 18 under par 414, the Korean pair of Park and Na Heul Kim continues to dominate the team event, with a 10 stroke lead over next placed Norway and Thailand a shot further back in third.
France is in fourth place, followed by England, Spain and Australia, tied with the second Chinese team of Xiyu Lin and Jia Yun Li.
There will be a tight final round duel for the leading Chinese team honours in the final round on Sunday, with the defending team Shanshan Feng and Li Ying Ye just one stroke behind.