Thailand's Patty Tavatanakit takes a five-shot lead into the final round of the ANA Inspiration
Watching Tavatanakit play, it is hard to believe that this is the first time in her career that she has held the 54-hole lead and not just by a small margin. She goes into the final round at Mission Hills Country Club five shots in the lead at -14, with her nearest competitors, defending champion Mirim Lee and American Ally Ewing at -9.
Three birdies in the first three holes and a fourth on nine from the 2020/21 LPGA Tour rookie, showed the chasing pack of major champions that she meant business. Three birdies and two bogeys followed in the back nine and it seemed that the heat that we have talked a lot about this week in Rancho Mirage, California, came into play later on in the day.
When asked about her third round Tavatanakit said:
"Obviously it was a little tough today, too, towards the end. It was hot. It was getting windy. Even though like I shot good scores, the process was still a little bit challenging."
Preparing for major Sunday
She is going to make sure that she is fully prepared for the final round:
"I've been taking care of my body well, doing some exercises in the morning, going bed early and getting up whenever I get up. Not stress too much about golf. Just, I don't know, don't think about it. I don't usually like to think about golf when I'm off the golf course anyway."
A win would make her the fourth player to win wire-to-wire with no ties, and the first since Karrie Webb in 2000 and she would be the fourth consecutive player to win the ANA Inspiration as her first major title.
As we all know, major championships can throw in some curve balls and although she holds a five shot lead, the players behind should not be discounted.
Ally Ewing shot the lowest round on Saturday with a 6-under 66, three birdies on the front nine were followed by three birdies on the back nine. This saw her jump from 20th into a tie for second with defending champion Mirim Lee.
Commenting on her round she said:
"The expectations were kind of not there and I was just looking for some really positive energy on the first tee.
"It was just kind of just a great day. I hit a lot of fairways, greens, which is crucial in a major, especially out here. If I look back on my day I missed several putts inside ten feet, but, I mean, a 66 on moving day, certainly all you can ask for to put yourself in a good position."
Mirim Lee is no stranger to a final round on the Dinah Shore Tournament Course and if she produces some of the magic as she did in September, we could have a really exciting final day at this first major championship. Her game plan for Sunday is simple:
"Just play like today and then keep going, make lots of birdies."
Tavatanakit’s playing partner on Saturday, major champion Shanshan Feng, shot an even-par and sits in fourth at -8. Feng carded one birdie and one bogey to help her stay in contention.
“I think overall I did okay. I mean, I hit the balls very well. The only thing I was missing a little bit was my putting today. I was just struggling with the speed a little bit. But other than that, I think it was perfect,” said Feng.
Will Tavatanakit hold her nerve?
2013 ANA Inspiration champion and last week's LPGA Kia Classic winner Inbee Park and Charley Hull are in fifth at -7, with Gaby Lopez, Lydia Ko, Jin Young Ko and Moriya Jutanugarn rounding out the top-10 in a tie for seventh at -6.
Although there are many strong players behind her, it seems that it will be down to 21-year-old Tavatanakit to see whether she can stand the heat, hold her nerve and cool off with a jump into Poppie's Pond.
The leaders tee off at 13:45 PDT / 16:45 ET / 21:45 BST. You can watch the coverage live on Sky Sport Golf and Sky Sports Main Event at 23:00 BST today. Or for free on Sky Sport Golf YouTube channel here.
View LIVE scoring here.