Ariya takes lead at LPGA Honda

PATTAYA - Sensational young Ariya Jutanugarn, in her first big tournament as a professional, grabbed a three-shot lead at the $1.5-million Honda LPGA tournament against the world's best women golfers on Saturday.

  • Published: 23/02/2013 at 05:45 PM
  • Newspaper section: breakingnews

Ariya Jutanugarn of Thailand plays a shot during the third round of the Honda LPGA Thailand golf tournament in Pattaya on Saturday. (AFP Photo)

It was a day of sweet revenge for the Thai teen, who was turned down for a tour card by the LPGA last year because she was not old enough.

Instead, she played at qualifying school in Europe to earn her tour ticket - and get a chance at revenge on the LPGA.

(The LPGA online scoreboard does not even provide a photo of Ariya on her player's page - possibly the only top player in the tournament getting that treatment.)

On Saturday, Ariya birdied the first hole, and double-bogeyed the ninth for an inauspicious start.

She then moved to the back nine and produced birdies on holes 10, 11, 12, 13, 14 and 16 to card a round of twio-under par and pass Stacy Lewis of the US, leader after rounds one and two.

Lewis was four-over on Saturday, and sank into a three-way tie for second place, with Se Ri Pak of Korea and Beatriz Recari of Spain. Inbee Park of Korea is one shot behind in fifth place, four behind Ariya. Defending champion Yani Tseng, the No. 1 player in the world, shot a 72 for a share of 24th place.

"I went to the course today [under] pressure as there were so many fans coming to see me," said Ariya, who is bidding to become the first Thai player to win an LPGA tournament.

"Not only my family, but also the entire country has hopes for me. But after I heard their hands clap, it became an inspiration."
 
Ariya said she wouldn't let the pressure of being the leader get to her. "I have nothing to worry about. I have the game plan and have to focus on it."
 
It was a tough day to make low scores, with most cards peppered with bogeys — something Recari attributed to the windy conditions.

"On the front nine there were some tricky pins. The other nine it seemed like the greens were much faster," the Spaniard said after her round, which left her within striking distance of Ariya.

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