AP News

Creamer makes up 3 shots at Corning

Photo: Kevin Rivoli/AP

Paula Creamer on the 17th hole during the third round of the LPGA Corning Classic.

CORNING, N.Y. (AP) — Paula Creamer is back in the spot she covets - atop the leaderboard.

The 20-year-old LPGA Tour star birdied her two final holes Saturday for a 6-under 66 to tie Beth Bader and Young Kim for the third-round lead at the Corning Classic.

Creamer, who began the day three shots behind Bader, completed a bogey-free round with a nice par save at No. 16, then chipped to about a foot at No. 17 and finished with a 10-foot birdie putt on the final hole.

``This was a really good three-hole finish. I finished strong,'' said Creamer, who won at Turtle Bay in her first start of the season. ``I gave myself plenty of opportunities to go low and I made some good putts.''

Bader (69), who began the day with a one-shot lead over Kim (68), fell behind by two shots at the turn. She tied Kim at 16 under with a birdie at No. 13, and the two parred the final five holes to finish at 16-under 200 - one shot ahead of Mi Hyun Kim (66).

Two South Korean rookies were in the hunt for their first tour victories. In-Kyung Kim (68) was at 12 under, one shot ahead of Na On Min (68). Becky Morgan (70) also was at 11 under.

Among the top seven players on the leaderboard, only Creamer and Mi Hyun Kim have won on the LPGA Tour. And Creamer already was anticipating the final round. Although the third round was played under mostly sunny conditions with a light breeze, rain was in the forecast, and tournament officials will use threesomes going off both the first and 10th tees to speed play Sunday.

That means Creamer will be the only one in her group to have won on tour, and she relishes the challenge inclement weather presents. Her first career victory came in the rain at the 2005 Sybase Classic, just four days after she graduated from high school.

``It's going to be a good day tomorrow,'' said Creamer, who also won the Evian Masters as a rookie. ``Hopefully, it'll be windy and tough conditions. But if not, we'll take it. It's going to be a good finish.''

Mi Hyun Kim wasn't so sure. A knee injury she suffered as a youngster was bothering her again.

``I feel a little bit hurt, so that means maybe rain tonight or tomorrow,'' said Kim, who made a 35-foot birdie putt at No. 18 to move within a shot of the lead, then threw her ball to the gallery in a moment of jubilation. ``I just worry about the softer (ground). It was more slow yesterday after the rain.''

Bader, who has never finished higher than fifth in an LPGA event, battled her nerves all day as a large gallery gathered around every hole. Still, she eagled the second hole, a 446-yard par 5, to calm the jitters and get to 15 under, two shots ahead of Young Kim.

``Today was a little different story,'' Bader said. ``I knew it was going to be a little more difficult with the crowd. I had a couple of shaky holes, but I made some good recoveries out of trees. I was happy with the way I held strong. I was able to get through that.''

Young Kim rallied with birdies at Nos. 2 and 4 and gained a two-shot lead over Bader with birdies at Nos. 8 and 9, the second on a 21-foot putt.

Bader kept the margin from growing with a brilliant par save at 9. After her drive landed in the first cut of rough along the left side of the fairway, her second shot settled in a greenside bunker. She then nearly holed her sand shot, the ball stopping less than 3 inches from the hole as the gallery groaned.

Young Kim did not make a single bogey on the first two rounds and her string continued Saturday until she reached the 412-yard, par-4 13th, which has a twin-tiered green and is one of the two most difficult holes on the course.

While Bader made a downhill 10-foot birdie putt that stopped briefly on the lip before dropping, Kim missed a 5-foot putt for par, and that two-shot swing knotted the two at 16 under.

``That was a good momentum boost for me,'' Bader said.

``After (the) bogey, I (was) really disappointed (in) my game,'' Young Kim said. ``But it's OK.''

Natalie Gulbis (70), Meg Mallon (68), Grace Park (67), Ai Miyazato (69) and Seon Hwa Lee (67) were 10 under. First-round leader Charlotta Sorenstam, who faltered Friday with a 73, continued the slide with a 75 and was at 4 under.

Divots: Catriona Matthew holds the record for lowest three-round score at Corning, a 199 four years ago. ... Young Kim went 48 holes without a bogey. ... The leaders' total of 16-under 200 ties the low 54-hole score on tour this year.

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