Alison Lee took a three-stroke lead Saturday in the LPGA KEB HanaBank Championship, putting the 21-year-old UCLA student in position for her first victory.
Lee shot a 4-under 68 in calm and firm conditions Sky 72, saving par on 17 and birdieing 18 to stretch her margin over U.S. Women’s Open champion Brittany Lang, her U.S. Solheim Cup teammate.
Playing her second season on the tour while remaining in college, Lee had a 13-under 203 total on the Jack Nicklaus-designed Ocean Course. She also had a three-stroke lead after an opening 65, and began the day a stroke behind Lang after a second-round 70.
Lang followed her second-round 65 with a 72.
Lee rebounded from a bogey on the par-4 14th to birdie the 15th. A day after chipping in for eagle on the short par 4, she hit a full approach that tracked across the green to 4 feet of the back pin.
After missing a 7-foot birdie putt on the par-4 16th, she got an 8-foot comebacker to drop for par on the par-3 17th. She made a 4-footer on the par-5 18th, seeing the line when Cristie Kerr — the third member of the all-Solheim Cup group — hit a bunker shot inches behind Lee’s marker and holed her birdie putt.
Lee also rebounded well from her first bogey of the day, following a dropped shot on the par-3 third with four straight birdies. She then made six straight pars before missing a 5-footer on 14.
South Korea’s In-Kyung Kim, the winner two weeks ago in China in the first of six straight events in Asia, was third at 9 under after a 69. She also won a Ladies European Tour event in Germany last month.
Spain’s Carlota Ciganda had a 69 to reach 8 under, and Kerr’s 72 left her at 7 under with Taiwan’s Candie Kung (69) and South Korea’s Min-Sun Kim.
Sung Hyun Park, tied for the lead early in the round, had consecutive double bogeys on the back nine in a 73 to fall to 6 under. The Korean LPGA member tied for second behind Lexi Thompson last year.
Thompson also was 5 under a 72, making five birdies, three bogeys and a double bogey. She and Lang are the only U.S. winners this year.
In Gee Chun, the top-ranked South Korean player at No. 3, was 3 under after a 69.
Top-ranked Lydia Ko was 1 over after a 73. She has four victories this year, one behind second-ranked Ariya Jutanugarn for the tour lead. Jutanugarn had a 69 to get to 1 under.
Fourth-ranked Brooke Henderson had her worst round of the season, shooting a 78 alongside Ko to drop to 5 over. The Canadian teen plans to play all six week in Asia.