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Tseng Fires 63 for Three-Stroke Lead in Safeway Classic
On Saturday at Columbia Edgewater Country Club in Portland, Yani Tseng showed the skills that led to her becoming the preeminent player in women's golf when she held the No. 1 position in the world golf rankings for 109 straight weeks from 2011 to early this year.
The 24-year-old from Taiwan, a 15-time winner on the LPGA Tour, carded a whopping 11 birdies - and two bogeys - en route to posting a 9-under 63 to take a three-shot lead in the $1.3 million Safeway Classic.
Tseng, who's winless in 36 events since the Kia Classic in March 2012, stands at 18-under 198 heading into Sunday's final round. Tied for second at 201 are 36-hole leader Pornanong Phatlum of Thailand, who carded a 1-under 71, and Norway's Suzann Pettersen (70).
Tseng said her game has been rounding into shape since recently visiting her coach, Tony Kao, back home. "I went back to Taiwan the last two weeks to play golf with some young LPGA players in Taiwan, and they're really helping me to be back in this position, to be more excited to make birdie, to try to beat everybody out here, and . . . today I feel I played a little more aggressively the last two days.
"Just feels like I tried to go for the pin every shot and tried to make birdie every hole. My coach from Taiwan, he's here with me this week, and I think that helps a little bit and keeps me very relaxed, and we had a great talk every round, and it's good."
Four shots behind Tseng are Sweden's Ann Nordqvist, who matched Tseng's 63, and Americans Morgan Pressel (65), Stacy Lewis (65) and Lizette Salas (68).
American Austin Ernst fired Saturday's low round, a 10-under 62 that also listed 11 birdies but only one bogey. The score by the 2011 NCAA women's golf champion while at LSU, who was in Saturday's first group, took her into a tie for 12th at 12-under 204.
As for what it was like going off first, Ernst said, "It was fast. I didn't really have time, I guess, to kind of realize what I was doing . . . because you don't really have a lot of time to look at the board or anything like that. I did glance at it a couple times, but I mean, I shot 29 on the front, and my goal score today was 64. Obviously shooting 62, I'm more than happy with that.
"Now depending on what they do in four hours when they tee off just kind of depends on how many shots I'm out of the lead. But I think now I'm kind of back in the tournament. Definitely more so than I was at the start of the day," added Ernst, who opened with rounds of 67 and 75.
After opening with a pair of 71s, defending champion Mika Miyazato posted a 72 Saturday. The Japanese player won last year when the tournament was held at Pumpkin Ridge's Ghost Creek course west of Portland.
In other news, Sophie Gustafson retired from the LPGA Tour after missing Friday's cut in the Safeway Classic. "It's with mixed emotions that I'm now choosing to step away from the LPGA," tweeted Gustafson. "Thanks for all your kindness over the years."
The 39-year-old Swede won the last of her five LPGA Tour titles in 2009. She also had 13 titles on the Ladies European Tour and topped that circuit's money list three times.
In her final tournament, Gustafson posted rounds of 73 and 76.
For all the scores in the Safeway Classic, visit www.lpga.com.
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