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MIAMI, Jan 24 — Danielle Kang produced a battling display to hold on to a two-shot lead after a ferocious challenge from Jessica Korda in the third round of the LPGA Tournament of Champions on Saturday.
Kang, who is yet to drop a shot all week, relied on a red-hot putter to card an eight-under-par 63 at Four Season Golf & Sports Club in Lake Buena Vista, Florida — her third straight bogey-free round.
The 28-year-old Californian’s outing included a crucial save on the par-five 17th, when she recovered brilliantly after hitting her second into the water.
She followed that with her eighth birdie of the day on the 18th to finish on 21 under after 54 holes, two clear of Jessica Korda, who earlier erupted over the back nine for an incredible 11-under-par 60.
Kang was under pressure from both Korda sisters Nelly and Jessica — the daughters of former Czech tennis ace Petr Korda — throughout an absorbing third round.
But the world number five was able to conjure birdies or saves at key times to stay just ahead of the chasing pack.
The American, who started the day with a two-shot lead, saw her advantage evaporate early on after Nelly Korda opened with three straight birdies to grab a share of the lead.
But Kang, who had birdied the first, then made birdies on the 4th, 6th and 7th holes to reach the turn at four under, 17 under overall.
Nelly Korda, playing in the group ahead of Kang, then birdied the 10th and 11th to move within two of the lead.
But Kang rolled in an eight-foot birdie putt on the 10th before sinking a 10-footer on the 11th to take a three-shot lead.
A costly bogey from Nelly Korda on the 15th — fluffing a tap-in for par after narrowly missing a birdie chance — allowed Kang to take a four-shot lead after she promptly grabbed her seventh birdie of the day.
But just as Kang appeared to have taken a stranglehold on the third round, Jessica Korda erupted.
A brilliant eagle three on the par-five 17th left her two off the lead before a long birdie putt on the 18th put her on 19 under.
Korda’s charge began on the back nine as she rattled off seven birdies and an eagle to close out only the fifth 60 in LPGA Tour history.
Younger sister Nelly finished the day in third on 15 under after a 67, two ahead of South Korea’s Chun In-gee, who is on 13 under after a 67.
Canada’s Brooke Henderson is fifth on 12 under after a six-under-par 65. — AFP