DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) – American teenager Lexi Thompson has a one-shot lead going into the final round of the Dubai Ladies Masters after making a birdie putt on the 18th for a 2-under 70 on Friday.
The 16-year-old Thompson, the youngest LPGA Tour winner, is 10 under for the tournament, one shot ahead of Sophie Gustafson (69) of Sweden.
Thompson, who led by two shots going into the third round, bogeyed the 15th. Gustafson made three birdies on the back nine. But the American reclaimed the lead when she reached the green in two on the 18th and made the birdie putt.
“I was pretty much like 'let's just hit it,''' Thompson said. “You've been hitting it pretty good, so just got to be confident.''
Lee-Anne Pace of South Africa (67) and Pernilla Lindberg of Sweden (68) are two shots back of Thompson in the season-ending Ladies European Tour tournament.
Michelle Wie (71) is a five shots off the pace at 5 under.
Thompson is looking to become the second youngster winner on the European Tour, just three months after she won her first LPGA event in Alabama to make history on that tour.
“I hit it pretty well. I just left a few putts out there,'' she said. “But you know, a lot of girls are in contention so it will be a great day out there.
“I'm just going to try and make birdies throughout the whole day, play consistent. Pars, birdies nothing can be worse than that.''
Thompson opened with a bogey when she hit a drive behind some trees and failed to make a 4-foot putt.
She got a shot back with a birdie on the third but couldn't pull away from the 38-year-old Gustafson, who closed within a shot with a birdie on six and then tied for the lead with a birdie on 13.
Thompson retook the lead with a birdie on 14 only to fall back when she hit a bad drive on 15 and three-putted for her second bogey. Tied coming down the 18th, the big-hitting Thompson unleashed a 3-wood, ala Tiger Woods, that cleared the water and landed on the edge of the green. She just missed a 35-foot eagle putt but made a birdie.
“Once I saw the drive, I was like 'all right, I probably can go for it' from there and it was 212 to the pin,'' she said.
Looking for her first tour win of the year, the 14-time tour winner Gustafson said she was pleased with a round that included five birdies and two bogeys. She missed a 10-foot birdie putt on 18.
“Started off a bit iffy but figured it out pretty quick and was solid from there,'' she said. “I mean, obviously Lexi is going to be hard to beat. But if I can keep playing well, then I think I have a good chance.''
It was another inconsistent day for Wie. She dropped a shot on the front nine before making all three of her birdies and a bogey on the back.
“It's pretty frustrating,'' she said. “You know, but at least I made a birdie on the last hole, made me feel good about myself. But tomorrow I just gotta a go out there and really shoot low.''
Even though she's eighth, Wie is still capable of charging. She moved into contention on the last day of the tournament last year, shooting a 67 for the best score of the day.
“It's a golf course where you can and should,'' she said of shooting a low score. “I just gotta go out there tomorrow, gotta focus and make a lot of birdies.''