RANCHO MIRAGE, Calif. – Inbee Park’s 7-iron tee shot Saturday on the 168-yard 17th hole turned to left on a perfect line at the back-left pin, landed softly and rolled to 2 1/2 feet for yet another birdie in the Kraft Nabisco Championship.
The 24-year-old South Korean, three strokes ahead with a round left in the first major championship of the year, admitted it wasn’t quite the way she planned it after watching playing partner Lizette Salas’ ball sail too far left and into a bunker.
It was actually a little bit of a mis-shot, Park said. I aimed a little more right, but I slightly pulled it and it ended up perfect.
Bogey-free in her last 22 holes at Mission Hills, Park shot her second straight 5-under 67 in tricky wind conditions to reach 12 under.
I feel really good about my swing and the stroke at the moment, Park said. I feel really comfortable around this golf course, too. That helps. Three good rounds, and I just need another one (today). ... I was really used to the wind after yesterday, because we had a really similar wind. It was a lot easier to judge today.
She’s in position for her second major title and second victory of the year. She won the 2008 U.S. Women’s Open and added her fourth LPGA Tour title in February in Thailand, when Ariya Jutanugarn closed with a triple bogey to blow a two-stroke lead.
This one would mean a lot, Park said. It’s just been a tournament I always wanted to win and, with the special ceremony jumping in the water, everybody just wants to do that.
Salas, a stroke behind Park entering the round, had a 69 to remain second.
I’ve just got to stay patient and just trust my putter and just keep it simple, Salas said. I’m just going to stick to my game plan. I can’t control what she does. I can only control my swing thoughts and my routine.
Hall of Famer Karrie Webb, the tournament winner in 2000 and 2006, was five strokes back at 6 under along with Suzann Pettersen, Angela Stanford, Jessica Korda, Karine Icher and Pornanong Phatlum. Stanford had a 66, the best round of the tournament. Webb and Pettersen shot 67, Korda and Icher 68, and Phatlum 70.
Salas pulled within two of Park with a birdie on the par-4 13th, and Park countered with the birdie on 17. Park saved par on 17 after hitting into the bunker, then missed a chance to get closer on the par-5 18th when her 6-foot birdie attempt slid by to the right.
PGA: In San Antonio, Billy Horschel held off an experienced leader board to shoot 2-under 70 and take a two-shot lead entering the final round of the Texas Open.
Horschel battled through the gusting wind to reach 10 under overall – two shots ahead of Jim Furyk and Charley Hoffman. The Florida native was second at last week’s Houston Open and extended his PGA Tour-best streak of consecutive made cuts to 21 this week.
Rory McIlroy shot a 1-under 71 and is four shots back. McIlroy tied for the low round Friday with a 67, but he was inconsistent off the tee Saturday and had four birdies and three bogeys.