Rookie Sei Young Kim of South Korea shot 3-under-par 69 and pulled away late in the day to take a three-stroke lead over Stacy Lewis heading into the final round of the ANA Inspiration on the Dinah Shore Tournament Course at Mission Hills Country Club in Rancho Mirage.
The 22-year-old Kim, who won the Pure Silk Bahamas Classic for her first LPGA Tour victory early this year after winning six times in Korea, took the lead with a 20-foot birdie putt from the fringe on the 16h hole and added a seven-footer for birdie one hole later.
“If I were to win it tomorrow, it would be the biggest dream ever to come true for me,” Kim said. “You know, just because I’ve watched this tournament since I was young. That’s why I feel I want it so much more, and I think the opportunity is there in front of me. I definitely want to get my hand on it, and for sure it won’t be bad jumping into that pond tomorrow.
“When Grace Park and Stacy Lewis won it, I remember them jumping into (Poppie’s Pond).”
Lewis, who won this tournament in 2011 when it was the Kraft Nabisco Championship, climbed to the top of leaderboard with six birdies in a flawless first 12 holes, but made two bogeys down the stretch and wound up with a 68.
Morgan Pressel, who won this tournament in 2007, stumbled with bogeys on two of the last three holes to shoot 71 and was four shots back in a tie for third with Brittany Lincicome, who had a 70, and Ariya Jutanugarn of Thailand, who came in at 66.
Shanshan Feng of China carded a 70 and was another stroke back in a tie for sixth with Jenny Shin of South Korea, who had a 71, and Moriya Jutanugarn, Ariya’s sister, who wound up at 70.
Pat Hurst, 45, of San Leandro and San Jose State, who won this tournament in 1998, shot 70 and was tied for ninth with defending champion Lexi Thompson (71), So Yeon Ryu (71) of South Korea, Anna Nordqvist (69) of Sweden, Mi Hwang Lee (70) of South Korea.
Top-ranked Lydia Ko of New Zealand, who had her LPGA Tour record-tying streak pf 29 sub-par rounds end with a 73 on Friday, struggled again with a 74 and was tied for 48th.