PARADISE ISLAND, Bahamas (AP) — Stacy Lewis had two back-nine eagles Saturday in the LPGA Tour’s season-opening Pure Silk Bahamas Classic to put herself in position again to end a long winless streak.
Lewis shot a 10-under 63 at Ocean Club to match Lexi Thompson atop the leaderboard at 23-under 196, one off the tour 54-hole record for relation to par set by Annika Sorenstam in the 2003 Mizuno Classic.
“That was probably the best round I think I’ve ever shot on tour in relation to par, so just a cool day,” Lewis said. “I didn’t exactly hit it perfect, got away with a few shots, but just took advantage of it. I didn’t even know what I shot there at the end of the day.”
Lewis was second in the event in 2014 and tied for second last year, one of her 11 runner-up finishes since her last victory in June 2014. She has 11 tour victories, including two majors.
Lewis holed out from the fairway for eagle on the par-5 11th, birdied the next two, and dropped a stroke on the par-4 14th. She birdied the par-3 17th and made a 12-foot eagle putt on the par-5 18th. She had four birdies on the front nine.
“I knew I needed to be aggressive out there today, and it wasn’t pretty at times, wasn’t perfect, but the scorecard turned out great,” Lewis said. “You’ve just got to take advantage. When those miss-hits work out good, you take advantage of it, and that’s what I did today.”
Thompson followed her tournament-record 61 on Friday with a 66 in calm conditions. She birdied the final four holes on the front nine and added two more on 14 and 15.
“Coming out here with no wind, it’s just you have to make a lot of birdies to make a move on anybody,” Thompson said. “I shot 7 under and I’m tied, so it’s crazy, but we will see what tomorrow will bring.”
Gerina Piller was a stroke back, birdieing the final two holes for her second straight 65. Brittany Lincicome, the leader after each of the first two rounds, had a 69 fall two shots behind.
“Really just keeping it in the fairway and keeping it close, and I have had several tap-in birdies, which always helps,” Piller said. “The greens are in great condition and that helps when you hit the ball on line.”
Lewis will join U.S. Solheim Cup teammates Thompson and Piller in the final group Sunday.
“That’s where I wanted to be,” Lewis said. “When I walked up on 18, kind of said I needed that putt to make sure I was in that last group. I think it’s important just to kind of know what’s going on. I did a good job of not looking at leaderboard today, and I want to continue doing that so you get a feel for what’s going on. It’s definitely the goal. The goal coming in this week was to have a chance on Sunday, and I did that, so now, it’s just go out there and play golf.”
Israel’s Laetitia Beck ended the run of U.S. players on the leaderboard, shooting a 66 to get to 16 under. Nelly Korda matched Lewis for the round of the day with a 63 to jump from tie for 32nd to a tie for sixth at 15 under in her first event as a tour member. The 18-year-old Korda is the sister of tour player Jessica Korda and daughter of former tennis player Petr Korda.
“I’m so happy to be out here. It’s been my dream,” Korda said. “I was definitely nervous my first day and my first nine holes, and I’m glad I kind of got those nerves out of way, and now I can play some golf.”
Canadian Brooke Henderson was tied for 23rd at 10 under after a 73.
U.S. Solheim Cup captain Juli Inkster was 7 under after a 70. She’s starting her 35th tour season.
Second-ranked Ariya Jutanugarn had a 72 to get to 3 under. She won five times last season and took the LPGA Tour player of the year award.
Lewis will join Thompson and Piller in the final group Sunday.
“That’s where I wanted to be,” Lewis said. “When I walked up on 18, kind of said I needed that putt to make sure I was in that last group. I think it’s important just to kind of know what’s going on. I did a good job of not looking at leaderboard today, and I want to continue doing that so you get a feel for what’s going on. It’s definitely the goal. The goal coming in this week was to have a chance on Sunday, and I did that, so now it’s just go out there and play golf.”