WILLIAMSBURG, Va. (AP) — Lindsey Wright shot a 7-under 64 and Cristie Kerr had a 66 to share the third-round lead as Lorena Ochoa faltered Saturday in the Michelob Ultra Open.
The top-ranked Ochoa shot 74 with only two birdies, both of which were canceled out by a double-bogey at the par-4 14th. She started the day leading by three and now is five behind.
“I don’t know what happened,” Ochoa said. “I didn’t hit the ball bad. I lipped out maybe four putts today. A couple of them were about six feet, so I was a little frustrated.”
Instead of a runaway by Ochoa, who led after each of the first two rounds, it was the steadiness of Wright – she came within a shot of the course record and has just one bogey in the first 54 holes of the tournament – and the resiliency of Kerr that defined the day.
They will play in the final twosome on Sunday.
“I’m excited,” said Wright, an Australian in her sixth year on tour and still seeking her first victory. She said she isn’t even certain when she last played in the final grouping.
“I feel like I’m ready. It’s great to be in this position. I’ve worked really hard on my game, so I’ve earned the right to be here,” she said. “It’s not like, ‘Oh wow! I’m leading the tournament.’ I mean, my expectations are that I expect to be here. But in saying that, it’s also a new experience. … I love to go head-to-head with the best players in the world.”
She won’t have to look far to find one of them. Kerr is ranked sixth in the world, has won 11 times in her career, including the 2007 U.S. Open, and won this tournament in 2005.
She said her birdie-birdie finish to gain a share of the lead was big.
“If you don’t have to make up shots, it’s better,” she said.
In-Kyung Kim, one back after a 67, will play with Song-Hee Kim, who is two back after a 68, with Wendy Ward (67) and Natalie Gulbis (68) in the third-to-last group. Ochoa, who is tied with Ward and Gulbis, is in the fourth pairing with Shiho Oyama, who is seven back.
“I’m going to tell myself tomorrow is a new day,” Ochoa said.
Ochoa’s 13-under total coming into the day was a midpoint record, and Wright said having the 27-year-old leading the way inspired her to a share of the three-round mark at 15 under.
“Having seen Lorena at the top off the leaderboard, that kind of sets the wheels in motion when you get to the first tee because you know you’ve got to make birdies,” she said.
On Sunday, she intends to employ lessons learned from past days in contention, most recently the Kraft Nabisco Championship, where she finished fourth a month ago.
Chief among those lessons, she said, is staying in the present.
“If you start planning the speech on the first hole, you know you’re going to be in trouble. It’s a matter of playing each shot at a time. You’ve got to pace yourself,” she said.
Kerr’s intention is to stick to her new, Zen-based approach to controlling her mind.
“I have to focus on where I want to go tomorrow instead of being tied for the lead, because obviously that’s not going to hold up,” she said, adding that her mental training not only steers her clear of negative thoughts, but allows her to negotiate the rough patches.
“If you can ride those patches where not everything is coming together, that’s when you know you’re playing really well,” she said.