Going into final, Kim Hyo-joo is in the lead

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Going into final, Kim Hyo-joo is in the lead

PHOENIX - Kim Hyo-joo took the third-round lead Saturday in the LPGA Tour’s JTBC Founders Cup, finishing another long day at Desert Ridge in the dark on the 18th green.

The 19-year-old Korean player shot a 6-under 66 to take a two-stroke lead over 2013 winner Stacy Lewis into the final round. She holed her 1.5-foot par putt on the final hole at 6:51 p.m., 11 minutes after sunset.

“Been really good with the driver, second, third [shots], totally all the clubs,’’ Kim said. “If I miss, I save, so I’m playing good. All the putts feel good.’’

Kim made three straight birdies - the last with a 25-foot putt on the par-4 16th - and finished at 16-under 200. She won the Evian Championship last year in France for her first major title.

“I’ve won before and I’ve been playing four or five times a year on the LPGA,’’ Kim said. “So I have experience, but not much like this in the States.’’

Lewis shot a 67. After birdieing six of the first 11 holes to take the lead at 15 under, she had six pars and a bogey - on the par-3 14th - on the final seven holes.

“I feel like I played a lot better than the score,’’ Lewis said. “Had a bunch of putts, especially early, that I thought I made. The hole locations coming in were pretty tough, so I think to make some birdies, you really had to hit some good shots.’’

The 11-time tour winner was relieved to finish the round Saturday in the event that finally caught up after falling behind Thursday when rain delayed the start.

“The worst part is going to sleep thinking about that one shot or that one putt you have to hit,’’ Lewis said. “Just being able to do the normal stuff in the morning and not having to worry about going to bed so early. You can watch some basketball.’’

Alison Lee and second-round leader Kim Kaufman were third at 13 under. The 20-year-old Lee matched the course record with a 63, and Kaufman had a 70.

Top-ranked Lydia Ko was 12 under after a 69.

The 17-year-old New Zealander has broken par in her last 23 LPGA Tour rounds and 26 worldwide, a streak that started in the first round of her victory last year in the season-ending CME Group Tour Championship.

Ko won the Women’s Australian Open and the Ladies European Tour’s New Zealand Women’s Open in consecutive weeks this year. She tied for second last year at Desert Ridge, finishing a stroke behind Karrie Webb.

Lee Mi-hyang and Jang Ha-na also were 12 under, and six more players were 11 under.

“I think it almost makes things easier because you have to just go out there and play and see what happens,’’ Lewis said about the crowded leaderboard. “You can’t watch one person or the people in your groups. You’ve just got to go play golf.’’

Lee, still a student at UCLA after turning pro in December, tied the course record set by Ai Miyazato in 2013 and matched last year by Webb, Cristie Kerr and Han Hee-won. Lee also matched the best score of her career.


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