SINGAPORE (AP) — Karrie Webb broke out of a slump with three key birdies on the back nine Saturday to hold onto a one-stroke lead after the third round of the HSBC Women’s Champions.
Webb, the 2011 champion, has led every round this week. She shot a 70 to move to 11-under 205 overall.
The veteran Australian will play against another former champion in the lead group on Sunday – 2012 winner Angela Stanford. The American matched Webb birdie-for-birdie over the final five holes to shoot a 69.
“Even when I was not giving myself a lot of good birdie opportunities early on, I had to tell myself it’s Saturday, there’s plenty of golf left to be played and just to be patient,” she said. “And fortunately I listened to myself for a change.”
The top of the leaderboard remains tight after a momentum-swinging day on which a half dozen players either shared the lead or were within a shot of it.
Spain’s Azahara Munoz fired an eagle and four birdies for a 5-under 67, the low round of the day, to surge into a third-place tie with Taiwan’s Teresa Lu at 8-under 208.
America’s Paula Creamer, who briefly held the lead with Webb and Munoz, had six birdies to go with three bogeys to finish in fifth place at 7 under. Morgan Pressel of the United States was at 6 under, Norway’s Suzann Pettersen was another stroke back at 5 under, and Sweden’s Caroline Hedwall and South Korea’s Na Yeon Choi were in joint eighth at 4 under.
Webb, a seven-time major winner, started out the day slowly, playing her front nine at even par and then bogeying the 10th hole to go to 1 over, allowing the rest of the field to close the gap.
She turned it around on the 153-yard, par-3 14th hole, though, where she struck her tee shot to within a couple feet of the hole for an easy birdie putt. Next came a chip shot from the fairway on the 16th which rolled in for birdie to give her a two-stroke lead again.
Stanford stayed with Webb, though, as the other challengers fell back. Not to be outdone on the 14th, the American placed her tee shot even closer than Webb’s – a mere inches – leading to birdie. She matched Webb’s birdie again on the 16th, and both players closed the round with birdies on the 18th.
Stanford joked afterward there was only one way she could get the advantage on Sunday.
“I’m going to send Webbie a six-pack (of beer) tonight,” she said.
Webb replied, without missing a beat, “I’ll probably drink wine coolers.”
Webb and Stanford both have a chance to be the first repeat champion of the tournament, though both would win on two different courses. Both players picked up their first HSBC crown at Singapore’s Tanah Merah Country Club and this year’s event is being played at the Sentosa Golf Club.
If either veteran slips in the final round, however, Munoz and Lu are right behind them.
Both players are looking for their second LPGA titles. Munoz captured her only tournament at the 2012 Sybase Match Play Championship, while Lu, who gave up her LPGA membership in 2010 to concentrate on playing in Japan, won hers at last year’s Mizuno Classic.
Defending champion Stacy Lewis’ disappointing week, meanwhile, looks likely to end her streak of 13 consecutive top-10 finishes on the LPGA Tour. Lewis shot a 73 on Saturday, leaving her far down the leaderboard in joint-42nd place.
Lewis, the reigning Women’s British Open champion, is only three away from matching Webb’s LPGA record of 16 consecutive top-10 finishes, set in 1998-99.