SYLVANIA, Ohio (AP) — Lee-Anne Pace made a name for herself as
an amateur in her native South Africa, then proved herself with eight
wins on the Ladies European Tour.
Now she's ready to make waves in the U.S.
shot a 3-under 68 on Saturday to grab a share of the third-round lead
with Laura Diaz in the Marathon Classic. She can barely express what a
breakthrough win on the LPGA Tour might bring.
"It'll mean quite a
lot to be able to come out here and play well," she said after
recovering from bogeys at 11th and 12th holes with three late birdies.
"It already has made my week. I was so tired in the beginning of the
week and now this has happened, so I'm very excited."
have foundered after losing the two shots to par. But she came right
back to birdie the next two holes and then added another at the par-5
17th to join Diaz at 11-under 202.
The 33-year-old, in her 10th year as a pro, wants to keep it simple in the final round at Highland Meadows.
play a very similar type of game every time I go out there: Hit the
fairways and try to hit the green and make the putt. And so far it's
been working," she said. "Hopefully, coming down the stretch it's going
to be enough."
It was a day of highs and lows for Diaz, the leader
since birdieing her first five holes in an opening 62. She led by four
and then three strokes after the first two rounds.
first win since 2002, she could have regained the outright lead but left
a 7-foot birdie putt short on the 18th to finish with a 71.
Up by three shots on the fourth hole on Saturday, the 39-year-old faltered with a double-bogey.
pull-hooking her drive under a pine tree, she and caddie Pete Smith
moved away some twigs and the ball moved. The gallery around her let out
a collective gasp. She quickly assessed herself a one-shot penalty and
ended up punching back to the fairway, hitting to the green and
two-putting for the double.
By the time Diaz got to the tee at No.
9, rookie Jaye Marie Green's torrid play had pulled her into a tie for
the lead. Playing one group ahead, Pace would nail a 20-foot birdie putt
from the fringe to join them.
But before Pace's putt, Diaz hit the shot of the day.
had moved the tees up on the 255-yard, par-4 hole to allow players to
go for the green off the tee. Pace and playing partner So Yeon Ryu, the
2012 winner of the Marathon, vacated the putting surface to allow Diaz
and Lydia Ko to hit their drives. Diaz's ball landed 25 yards short of
the green and had a bead on the pin before edging past. Diaz later
rolled in the 10-foot downhill eagle putt to regain a two-shot lead.
bogeyed the 12th. The lead remained one shot until Pace hit into the
deep rough near the bunker fronting the par-5 17th, dropped a delicate
gap wedge to 8 feet and then rolled in the birdie putt to forge the tie.
Diaz consistently left birdie putts short all day.
if a player can ever forget how to win after a long respite, she said,
"I can't say that I knew how to do it then, and I don't know that I know
how to do it now."
Green applied pressure with a low round early on the cloudy day.
medalist in last year's LPGA Tour qualifying school, she turned in 30
and birdied four holes in a row before closing with a par on the par-5
closing hole. The 63 allowed her to climb from a tie for 31st at the
start of the day to a share of the lead before Diaz's eagle.
Green is tied a shot back with Ryu, who birdied the 15th, 16th and 17th holes for a 68.
shot back, at 9-under 204, was Ko, who birdied the last two holes in a
70. The group at 205 included Cristie Kerr (68) and last week's Women's
British Open champion, Mo Martin, who had a 67.
Eighteen players are within four shots of the lead.
Pace sounded thrilled by the all the potential mayhem.
"Yeah, the whole LPGA is chasing," she said.