Ariya leading in Melbourne

Ariya leading in Melbourne

Ariya Jutanugarn, shown above at the recent Pure Silk Bahamas LPGA Classic where she finished second, is the joint leader heading into the fourth round of the Australian Ooen. (AFP Photo)
Ariya Jutanugarn, shown above at the recent Pure Silk Bahamas LPGA Classic where she finished second, is the joint leader heading into the fourth round of the Australian Ooen. (AFP Photo)

MELBOURNE — Ariya Jutanugarn is one round away from becoming the first Thai to win a tournament on the biggest stage in women's golf.

The 19-year-old rookie is tied for first place with world No 1 Lydia Ko of New Zealand after three rounds of the women's Australian Open, the third event on this year's LPGA Tour.

Both Ariya and Ko on Saturday shot 72, one under par, for a three-day total of 212, seven under. Amy Yang of South Korea is one shot back at 213.

Ariya had three birdies and two bogeys to stay even with Ko in what is shaping up as a titanic battle of the sport's youth movement in the final round.

Ko also had three birdies and two bogeys on a hot and humid day at Royal Melbourne.

"You hit onto the green and you have this humongous break," the New Zealander told reporters. "It's tough in every aspect. ... It does feel like a major."

Ko, who is only 17, this month became the youngest golfer to hold top spot in the world rankings when she tied for second place at the LPGA's season-opening event in Florida.

Tiger Woods had previously held the record when he reached number one in 1997 at age 21.

Ariya, who is ranked 60th in the world, has earned $131,494 so far in her rookie year on the LPGA Tour, for which she qualified in December.

She previously played on the Ladies European Tour where she won the Lalla Meryem Cup in Morocco in 2013.

Ariya also came close to becoming the first Thai to win an LPGA Tour event at the 2013 Honda LPGA Thailand tournament, where she was a wild-card entrant. Buoyed by a hole-in-one, she built a two-stroke lead before a triple bogey on the 72nd hole cost her the title to South Korean star Inbee Park.

Both Ariya and Park will be in the field when this year's Honda LPGA Thailand tournament tees off on Thursday at the Siam Country Club in Pattaya.

Ariya, who finished runner-up at the Bahamas Classic two weeks ago, has never finished worse than 11th in her seven previous LPGA Tour starts.


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