Thai LPGA rookie on verge of major win

·2-min read

Patty Tavatanakit will take a five-shot lead into the final round of the LPGA's first major of 2021, all but crushing her challengers' hopes with a striking combination of power and touch.

A stroke ahead after each of the first two rounds at Mission Hills, the 21-year-old Thai player shot a 5-under 67 on a hot and windy afternoon to reach 14-under.

Tavatanakit matched the tournament 54-hole record set by Pernilla Lindberg in her 2018 victory.

Dottie Pepper set the overall mark of 19 under in 1999.

Defending champion Mirim Lee and Ally Ewing were second at 9-under, in the event being played without spectators for the second time in seven months.

Young gun Gabriela Ruffels is best placed of the Australians in a share of 11th at 5-under, a shot better off than Hannah Green (70) while Minjee Lee's 72 dropped her back to even par.

Ruffels made birdies on three of her opening four holes and added another on the 15th, only to give back a shot on the next for a 3-under 69.

Tavatanakit crushed drives - hitting a 337-yarder on the par-5 11th - and was equally as effective on and around the greens on moving day.

She birdied the first three holes on Saturday and when she made a 15-footer on 11 her advantage was five strokes.

A tour rookie, Tavatanakit is trying to become the sixth straight international winner of the ANA Inspiration which is celebrating its 50th edition.

Lee shot a 68, wearing a face mask while she played.

The South Korean player won the postponed event in September for her first major title.

Ewing had a bogey-free 66.

The American won last year at Reynolds Lake Oconee for her first tour title, playing then under her maiden name of McDonald.

Shanshan Feng, a stroke behind playing partner Tavatanakit entering the third round, was 8-under after a 72.

The Chinese star is making her first start after sitting out 16 months because of the coronavirus pandemic and a visa delay.

A winner last week on tour, Inbee Park shot a 70 to be alongside Charley Hull (71) in a share of fifth at 7-under.