MOUNT PLEASANT, S.C. (AP) — Leave it to Lorena Ochoa to find the sunny side of a tropical depression.
Ochoa shot a 2-under 70 to maintain her three-shot lead at the Ginn Tribute on Saturday, though three bogeys over the final six holes in drenching rains cost her a much larger advantage heading into the final round.
She finished at 11-under 205, three shots ahead of Nicole Castrale (68). Cristie Kerr (67) and rookie Angela Park (71) were four strokes behind the leader.
How long would it take the world’s No. 1 player to get over her errors? Apparently, not long at all.
“Tomorrow, you know, of course I’m going to be smiling and happy,” Ochoa said. “In a way, I don’t want to be sarcastic, but if you think about it, two under for a day like today is a really good round.”
Annika Sorenstam continued her injury comeback with a 2-over 74.
Sorenstam spent nearly two months recovering from a ruptured disc in her back. She hadn’t played a full 18 before this week and since the Kraft Nabisco Championships.
Ochoa was on her way to a great round at the RiverTowne Country Club.
She had shrugged off Park’s fast start of three straight birdies and the increasing rains of tropical depression Barry.
Ochoa holed out from the fairway for an eagle on the par-5 ninth. When she chipped in for birdie on the 12th hole, she was ahead by six.
But golf in the rain eventually took its toll.
After a lengthy delay on the 13th hole to squeegee off the green, Ochoa dropped a shot.
She then made back-to-back bogeys on the 16th and 17th holes, three-putting both greens. Ochoa had been 9-under on the par 5s here when she made bogey on the par-5 16th hole.
Even with the late mistakes, Ochoa remains in position to win her second LPGA Tour event in three weeks and third this season.
Ochoa wanted to focus on the positives of her round. “I feel angry and just a little frustrated playing so good and just finishing with those” bogeys, she said.
“The important thing is that I’m still in the lead, three shots, and I’m in good position for tomorrow,” Ochoa said. “So I’m happy to be there.”
Tournament officials moved up tee times and sent competitors off both the first and 10th holes in an attempt to beat the storm, which weakened to a tropical depression earlier Saturday.
Park, a first-year tour player, quickly opened with three straight birdies to catch Ochoa at the top.
Ochoa retook the lead on the fifth hole, rolling in a 12-footer for birdie while Park’s chip to the hole skidded 6 feet past and led her to bogey.
Ochoa went three strokes ahead on the next hole with a 20-foot birdie putt. The clincher came when Ochoa’s third shot on the 545-yard, ninth hole bounced past the flagstick and spun back into the cup.
She high-fived her caddie with a big grin. But she was far from finished with her run of success.
Already ahead by five strokes after Park’s bogey on No. 10, Ochoa’s approach shot went left of the 12th green into a collection area. Ochoa again responded by holing out, this time for birdie.
That’s when things changed. Ochoa hit her tee shot on No. 13 into a bunker when the group ahead pointed out water puddles on the green. It took about 15 minutes to bring on the equipment and dry off the green.
But Ochoa’s approach shot was well short of the green, leading to bogey.
Castrale got herself to 9-under par before a bogey on the 18th hole. “It’s going to be fun playing tomorrow with Lorena,” said Castrale, seeking her first LPGA victory. “She’s the No. 1 player in the world for a reason, and I’m going to have to make birdies to try and catch her.”
Kerr said if she can put together another round like she had Saturday, “it’s anybody’s ballgame.”
That depends if Ochoa plays as she did her first 12 holes or last six.
“I think I’ll be good tomorrow,” Ochoa said. “I’m really excited to be in good position and I’m really excited to get the tournament” victory.
Sorenstam, who hosts this tournament, said she woke up more tired Saturday than she anticipated and spoke with her doctor and a therapist before the round.
“It’s been a long week, golf-wise, for me,” said Sorenstam, 1-over for the tournament.
Sorenstam played six holes Monday, nine on Tuesday and then “18 three days in a row. So I’m not surprised that I’m tired, that my muscles are just feeling it.”
Divots: Meaghan Francella had the day’s best round, a 6-under 66, that moved her from a tie for 51st to a tie for seventh. … Officials will again send players off in threesomes from the first and 10th tees. The effects of Barry are expected to slide through the area by Sunday afternoon.