Lexi Thompson shot another bogey-free round today and took the lead in the 3rd round of the Lorena Ochoa Invitational Presented by Banamex at the Guadalajara Country Club. The American teenager went to the clubhouse with a 67 on her card and a 1 shot lead over South Korean IK Kim. Thompson, who’s Rolex Ranked No. 14, is completing her 2nd year on the LPGA Tour. It’s been a good year. She won the Sime Darby LPGA Malaysia in October and has 6 top-10 finishes including 3rd place finishes at the Marathon Classic Presented by Owens Corning in July and The Evian Championship in September.
Who’s Chasing Thompson
There are 8 players going into the final round Sunday within 5 shots of Thompson’s lead. IK Kim, 2010 Lorena Ochoa Invitational champ, is closest. Kim would like to be the first player to record multiple wins at the event. Kim, like Thompson, shot 67 today, but she did it with 3 fewer putts.
Thompson and Kim are both popular figures at the Lorena Ochoa Invitational. Thompson, who engages enthusiastically with the fans, and Kim, who donated her 2010 event winnings back to the event’s charity, are both admired and embraced by the Guadalajara community. The fans are enjoying having 2 favorite players at the top of the board.
Directly below IK Kim and 2 shots off the lead, Rolex Ranked No. 3 Stacy Lewis came bounding up the board again today. Despite 2 double-bogeys, Lewis finished the 1st round on Thursday at even par and in 16th place. She shot a bogey-free 66 in her 2nd round and moved up to 9th place. Today she matched Thompson’s and Kim’s 67 and moved up again.
Could Lewis pull out all the stops and play one of those magical rounds that will take her to the top of the board? She’s entered 5 events since she won the RICOH Women’s British Open in August, and finished in the top-10 at every one of them. In this field of world class athletes Lewis is right at home. But the competition will be stiff on Sunday.
So Yeon Ryu, who dropped back from a share of the lead to 4th place on the board today, will be looking for redemption. The Rolex Ranked No. 5 South Korean struggled to stay even during the 3rd round, as did the 2nd round co-leaders, Anna Nordqvist and Pornanong Phatlum.
Phatlum ran into trouble on the par-4 4th hole, gave back 2 shots with a double bogey, and never quite got her game going again. At the end of the day, Nordqvist and Phatlum had dropped back to 5th place. Both are at -9 for the tournament, 4 shots off Lexi Thompson’s lead.
Park v Pettersen: The Race Within The Race
Rolex Ranked No. 1 Inbee Park dropped down the board today and No. 2 ranked Suzann Pettersen went up and the pair are now sharing 7th place with Lizette Salas and completing the octet of players who are chasing Lexi Thompson’s lead.
After carding bogey-free 1st and 2nd rounds Park cooled off a bit today. She matched 3 birdies with 3 bogeys and shot even par. Pettersen did only slightly better. With 5 birdies and 3 bogeys on her card, she shot 70. The Rolex Player of the Year competitors are going into the final round trailing Lexi Thompson by 5 shots.
The pressure’s on Pettersen. She must claim the win to hold on to a hope of catching Park in the Player of the Year race. Park needs only to finish in the top-10 to stay ahead of Pettersen.
Sunday promises perfect weather for the final round at the Lorena Ochoa Invitational. The thunderstorms that caused delays on Saturday and created somewhat soggy playing conditions have passed. The sun will shine and it will be a warm and windless Mexican Sunday. Taylor Collins and Meena Lee will lead off the final round at 8:20am local time. The final group, Lexi Thompson, IK Kim, and Stacy Lewis will tee off at 10:21am local time. I’ll provide a tournament wrap-up late tomorrow afternoon.