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2012 U.S. Women's Open champion and Rolex Rankings No. 4 Na Yeon Choi will take a one-shot lead into the final round of the LPGA's season-ending CME Group Titleholders. Choi fired a 3-under 69 in Saturday's third round and leads by one over Japan native and two-time winner this season, Ai Miyazato.
Choi tallied four birdies and one bogey in her round on the Eagles Course at the TwinEagles Club in Naples, Fla. Despite a disappointing three-putt bogey on the third hole, Choi managed to prevent any further mistakes and she sank a 15-foot birdie-putt on the par-3 17th hole to take sole possession of the lead heading into the final 18 holes of the season.
Sitting two shots back of Choi is Louise Suggs Rolex Rookie of the Year So Yeon Ryu.
Halfway through her third round at the CME Group Titleholders, Ai Miyazato looked like she was blowing her chances at a shot at the season-ending event. The Japanese star was three-over at the turn but had a mid-round regrouping session with her caddie to get things going on the back-nine.
"Until No. 9 second shot, I had just so many times in between shots and I get a gust of wind and sometimes just wind stop and it was really hard to commit like all the way through," said Miyazato. "So that's why I think I shot 3â€‘over on the front nine.
"Then after No. 9 I said to my caddie, it was really hard work the 18th holes but now I think I'm ready for that, I'm ready to play good," said Miyazato. "I think that conversation kind of helped."
Miyazato would go on to record all four of her birdies on the back nine on Nos. 10, 13, 14 and 17 to finish at 11-under for the week and one stroke back heading into Sunday. She said throughout her entire round light talk with her caddie was one of the main reasons she was able to keep a light outlook through her early struggles.
"On the thrid hole I got up and down and made a par, but my caddie made a mistake on the second shot and I was really mad at him," said Miyazato. "But then on the fourth hole I hit really good shot and I had like 5â€‘foot birdie chance and he goes, 'Welcome back,' and I was like, 'What? Me?' And he goes, 'No, me.' And I go, 'Yeah, welcome back.' Everyone's making mistakes, so we try to make fun of each other. It was good atmosphere.
"It was kind of stressful to me, too, you know, but I just try and have like funny conversation in between me and caddie," said Miyazato. "And like I said yesterday, this is the last tournament and I just don't want to feel like, you know, stress all the way. I just want to having fun, you know? And it's one more day honestly, but I think that helps a lot.
Brittany Lincicome followed up her second-round 69 with another solid performance, ending Saturday's third round with a 2-under 70 and a tie for fourth with Karine Icher. Lincicome had to fight through another day of back pain, but it seems the 27-year-old hasn't minded it considering her performance this week.
"Yeah, I think it's just one of those things where the more I talk and the more chatty I am, the better I play," said Lincicome. "So if my mind is completely not on golf and it's on something else, it just seems to make me play better. Unfortunately, it's not really the way I would want it to go. Obviously I would still like to be talking to the standard bearers and people in my group and being chatty, but anything to kind of take my mind off of what I'm doing, I seem to play better, more relaxed, I guess."
Lincicome heads into the final-round just three-strokes off Na Yeon Choi's lead. Seeking her sixth career victory and her first this season, Lincicome feels confident that she could be the one standing in the winner's circle tomorrow.
"Each day it kind of seems to get easier and easier, and obviously I'm driving it really well, so if I can keep doing that tomorrow and making a few putts here and there, missed a few coming in, it's definitely out there for the getting if I can just get it all together," said Lincicome.
Na Yeon Choi has a little extra incentive to close out a victory on Sunday. After all, that $500,000 first-place prize check might come in handy this week when Choi gets set to make a big purchase.
"Monday I'm going to look for a new house in Orlando, so I want to make better -- good result this week to buy a new house," Choi said, joking that perhaps she might be able to buy a bigger house if she wins.
In addition to buying a new home, Choi is also changing up her home course in the Orlando area. She said that she is now going to practice at Isleworth Country Club.
Na Yeon Choi -12, Rolex Rankings No. 4
Ai Miyazato -11, Rolex Rankings No. 8
So Yeon Ryu, -10, Rolex Rankings No. 9
Brittany Lincicome -9, Rolex Rankings No. 20
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