RANCHO MIRAGE — Donna Andrews is playing in only her second Nabisco Dinah Shore tournament, but already the Mission Hills Country Club is becoming a favorite course.
Andrews put together a string of five birdies beginning with the sixth hole Saturday and shot a five-under-par 67 to move into the lead in the third round of the $700,000 LPGA major event. She is at 10-under-par 206.
Despite a double-bogey on the 16th, Laura Davies, co-leader after 36 holes, was in second place, one shot back, after a 69 for 207. The other second-round co-leader, Michelle McGann, bogeyed the 18th to drop into third place at 208.
In fourth place was Jan Stephenson. Not at all intimidated by playing with long hitters Davies and McGann, Stephenson shot a 70 for 209.
Although there was fresh snow on the mountains around the desert, the weather was warm and perfect for golf. The breeze was light and scores were generally lower. But not for Nancy Lopez, who faded on the back nine and shot a one-over 73. In the first two rounds, Lopez, still a gallery favorite, was six under on the back nine. But her two-over 38 in the third round left her at 213, seven shots behind.
Andrews' spurt put her in front, but the biggest crowd followed the threesome of McGann, Davies and Stephenson. The fans seemed in awe of the prodigious feats of Davies.
An example was the 526-yard par-five 18th. Nobody else on the tour reaches it in two shots. Davies, after a powerful drive of close to 300 yards, used a two-iron to put her second shot into the middle of the green. The resulting two-putt birdie put the big Briton in position for her second consecutive victory.
Davies enjoys playing the 18th, the longest hole on the course, but would rather bypass the relatively short, 375-yard 15th. In the last two rounds, the hole has cost her three strokes.
"I hate that hole," she said after a double-bogey six on 15 knocked her out of the third-round lead. "I hate the fairway, I hate the green. I don't know how to play it. Today I tried a three-iron off the tee and hit it in the rough behind the trees. Tomorrow, I'll try a four again."
After hitting her second shot on the 15th into a sand trap below the hole, she bladed the sand wedge and knocked the ball into the trap above the green.
"When I saw where that one was sitting (on a downhill lie at the back of the trap)," she said, "I knew it was a double bogey."
When she saved par by sinking a 20-foot putt after almost falling down on a sand shot on the 17th, it rekindled Davies' spirit and she rolled home with the two big shots on 18.
Andrews doesn't have a problem with any hole--only a particular shot. Twice, while trying to get into position for an easy birdie on two par-fives, the second and the 11th, she hit a duffer's shot--what the pros call a "chili-dip."
On the 504-yard No. 2, which has been the easiest in the tournament, Andrews hit her second shot in front of the green, only 20 yards from the hole. After mis-hitting a wedge, she was still short of the green. This time she salvaged par.
The next chili-dip ended her string of birdies as she bogeyed after being just in front in two shots.
Actually, Andrews' hot putting streak began on the fifth hole when she made a six-foot putt to save par. "That was when I started to feel like I was going to make every putt," she said. "I just knew they were going to go in."
Andrews' birdie putts were from six, 20, 15, 12 and three feet. She then missed a 20-footer for par on the 11th.
"When I missed the 20-footer, my husband, my caddy, said, 'It's just as well you missed one. The fans were getting bored.' "
Her husband, John Reeves, has caddied for her before. They were married last November.
Brandie Burton of Rialto had the best round of the tournament Saturday with a seven-under 65. She is within five shots of the lead at 211.