Rancho Mirage, Calif. - Defending champion Yani Tseng roared into the lead at the Kraft Nabisco Championship with a third-round 66 Saturday, moving two shots ahead of Stacy Lewis in the LPGA Tour's first major of the year.
The top-ranked Tseng showed a champion's confidence with her aggressive, powerful play at Mission Hills, shooting the round's low score to move to 12-under 204. She erased playing partner Lewis' three-shot lead in the first seven holes before going ahead on the 11th.
After Lewis evened it in the quest for her first tour victory, Tseng went back ahead with her sixth birdie on the 15th.
Lewis finished with a 71. Morgan Pressel (69) was four shots off the lead in third place. Michelle Wie (69) was six strokes back, staying in the hunt for her first major title.
Hamilton's Alena Sharp (73) is 13 shots behind the lead, while Stephanie Sherlock (73) of Barrie, Ont., trails by 17 strokes.
Tseng, the talkative 22-year-old from Taiwan, is chasing for her fourth major title after winning the Kraft Nabisco and the Women's British Open last year. She's looking quite capable of making her second celebratory leap into Poppie's Pond after blowing through an aggressive, bogey-free round that included two birdies right after the turn.
Lewis struggled to keep up, managing just two birdies while repeatedly saving par with a steady putter. Her lone bogey on the 16th hole allowed Tseng to take a two-stroke lead to the finale.
The first day of the weekend in Palm Springs could evoke a depressingly familiar scenario for Lewis, who lost a second-round lead to Tseng at the Australian Masters just seven weeks ago. Tseng roared ahead Saturday on the Gold Coast and finished strong to win the title, beating Lewis by four strokes in the final round.
After triple-digit temperatures weighed on players during the first two rounds, the heat dropped into the 90s with cloud cover and a mild breeze Saturday at Mission Hills. Lewis still was sweating even before she removed her Arkansas Razorbacks head cover for her first drive, while Tseng certainly appeared cool and collected.
Tseng, seeking her fifth worldwide victory of the year, trimmed Lewis' lead to one shot in the first four holes, with only Lewis' short game allowing her to save par after a couple of errant drives.
Lewis left a birdie putt woefully short on the fifth hole, and Tseng pulled even on the seventh with a 25-foot birdie putt of her own. Tseng appeared ready to run away after placing an exceptional tee shot right behind the pin on the par-3 eighth, but missed the putt.
But Tseng kept up her aggressive pace on the back nine, using her power off the tee - she hit a front-nine drive over 300 yards for the second straight day - to set up three birdies in a six-hole stretch.
Wie had another solid day after her opening-round 74, although she also missed a two-foot putt while making two bogeys. Win or lose, the former child prodigy will be back in class Monday for the spring quarter at Stanford.
Brittany Lincicome and Jane Park began the third round even with Tseng, but both struggled through unimpressive rounds on the first relatively cool day in the desert. Lincicome, the 2009 Kraft Nabisco champion, double-bogeyed the ninth hole in a 74 that put her eight shots off the lead, while Park fell into 10th place with a 76.
Pressel made three straight birdies on the back nine to stay in contention for the title she won in 2007. Hall of Famer and five-time major winner Se Ri Pak shot her second straight 71, putting her 11 strokes off the lead.
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