Thai teenager Atthaya Thitikul regained a one-stroke lead with a 5-under 67 in Saturday’s third round at the BMW Ladies Championship in Wonju, South Korea.
Thitikul, 19, finished with six birdies and one bogey on her card to move to 15-under, one stroke ahead of 17-time LPGA Tour winner Lydia Ko of Australia and second-round leader Andrea Lee.
Thitikul birdied five of her last nine holes at Oak Valley Country Club, including three straight from Nos. 13-15.
The winner of this year’s JTBC Classic, Thitikul is seeking her second career title.
“It’s always been hard to be in the final group, but aside from that, it means your work is paying (off), as well. So just keep doing your thing again,” she said. “You can be in contention every week, but you can’t win every week so just do real solid, just do your best out there and enjoy the last 18 holes, then I’m heading back home.”
Thitikul would rise to No. 1 in the Rolex Women’s World Golf Rankings if she wins or finishes solo fourth or better, but she said that is not her focus heading into Sunday.
“To be honest, I don’t really care about the ranking. I don’t really care to be like No. 1 in the world at all because I play golf because I want to take care of my family,” she said. “I want to feed my family. Whatever I am is fine. Even my family, they have a good life already. Ranking is not that important for me for real.”
Ko posted a bogey-free round of 6-under 66, hitting 11 of 14 fairways and 16 of 18 greens. She has finished in the top five in eight of her last 11 starts.
“I’ve just got to play my own game,” Ko said. “There are so many players within reach, and with golf, who knows how many shots behind you can be and you’re still in position to be able to win. I don’t know what I’m going to finish at the end of today or how many shots behind, but if I am confident and playing the best golf I can, and if somebody plays better than me, I can’t do too much about that.”
Lee’s 36-hole lead slipped away during an up-and-down round Saturday when she offset five birdies with three bogeys en route to a 2-under 70.
Fellow American Lilia Vu is in solo fourth at 13-under after carding a 69. She is followed by Koreans Hye-Jin Choi and Hyo Joo Kim, who are tied for fifth at 12-under after identical rounds of 66. Korean amateur Minsol Kim, 16, turned in a 71 on Saturday and is alone at 11-under.
–Field Level Media
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