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Inbee Park is steady as she goes, leads LPGA Kraft Nabisco by 3

Inbee Park, a 24-year-old South Korean bidding for her second major title, shoots second straight 67 for a three-shot lead over Lizette Salas after third round.

April 07, 2013|By Diane Pucin, Los Angeles Times
  • Inbee Park listens to her caddie give the yardage an layout of No. 17 before hitting her tee shot on Saturday during the third round of the Kraft Nabisco Championship.
Inbee Park listens to her caddie give the yardage an layout of No. 17 before… (Stephen Dunn / Getty Images )

Inbee Park seemed unflappable Saturday.

The breeze picked up, but Park's shots stayed in the middle of the fairway. The 24-year-old South Korean played alongside her closest competitor, Lizette Salas, and increased her lead even as the pro-Salas gallery cheered loudly for an almost-hometown girl.

Park, who won the U.S. Open in 2008 for her only major title, shot a second consecutive five-under-par 67 and, with a three-day total of 12-under 204, has a three-shot lead over Salas after three rounds of the Kraft Nabisco Championship at Mission Hills Country Club in Rancho Mirage.

Salas, 23, a USC graduate from Azusa, had a steady 69 Saturday, but that only dropped her further behind Park at the season's first major championship. Salas had trailed by one shot after two rounds.

She and Park will play in the same group again Sunday as Salas tries to win her first major title in her second year on the LPGA Tour.

"I feel really good about my swing and my putting stroke at the moment," Park said. "I feel really comfortable around this golf course too. That helps. Three good rounds and I just need another one tomorrow."

After their first two holes Saturday, Salas had pulled into a tie with Park at eight under, but Park took the lead for good when she made a 15-foot birdie putt on the par-three fifth hole.

Salas said she welcomed the advice of boxer Oscar De La Hoya, who played with Salas in the pro-am and has been tweeting and text-messaging with her during the week.

"I got a tweet from Oscar," Salas said, "saying rounds seven, eight, nine, go for the knockout. I tried that today. Tomorrow, he said, put on a show. We'll see if I shift into gear and throw in some fist pumps and knock in a couple of birdies tomorrow."

Six golfers are tied for third at six-under 210, six shots behind Park, including Americans Jessica Korda and Angela Stanford (who had the low round of the day, a 66) and Australian veteran Karrie Webb a Hall of Famer who has won here twice. In 2006 Webb came from seven behind in the final round to beat Lorena Ochoa. Also in the group are Suzann Pettersen, Karine Icher and Pornanong Phatlum.

"I think I'm going to have to shoot pretty low to win," Webb said. "There's a lot of great players in there with a chance."

Korda, 20, was followed around the course by her father Petr, who won the 1998 Australian Open tennis tournament, as she posted her best score of the week, a four-under 68 capped by a birdie on the 18th hole. "Definitely,, that gives me momentum," she said of the final putt.

Park also gained some last-minute momentum, even if she didn't need it, by making a three-foot birdie putt on the par-three 17th. She had placed a seven-iron that close to the hole.

"I aimed a little more right," she said, "but I slightly pulled it and it ended up perfect."

That pretty well summed up everything about Park's play this week. So far, ending up perfect.

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