Golf / Sports

Imbee Park hits out of a bunker on the 8th hole during the third round of the Swinging Skirts LPGA Classic at the Lake Merritt Golf Club in Daly City, Calif., on Saturday, April 26, 2014. (Dan Honda/Bay Area News Group/MCT)

Lewis and Ko duel for lead in Swinging Skirts LPGA Classic

DALY CITY, Calif. -- Stacy Lewis and Lydia Ko turned the inaugural Swinging Skirts LPGA Classic into the Duel At Lake Merced Golf Club on Saturday.

And, there still are 18 holes to go.

Lewis secured a one-shot lead on the strength of three straight birdies on the back nine, shooting a 4-under 68 for a three-round total of 10-under 206. Ko, the teen star from New Zealand, matched the 68 and is in second place after also blistering the back nine with three birdies over her final seven holes.

"That back nine, those last five or six holes had to be fun to watch because they were a lot of fun to play," said Lewis, a two-time major winner and the top-ranked American at No.3 in the world.

Jenny Shin is four behind the leader, and Hee Young Park is five back.

After being dogged by fog and rain over the first two days, the tournament caught a break on a sunny and cool Saturday, and the birdies were flying on the back nine.

Lewis, 29, rolled in a 45-foot birdie putt on the par 4 16th hole, before Ko, who turned 17 on Thursday, tapped in for her birdie. The previous hole was just the opposite. Ko chipped in from the front of the green before Lewis tapped in for birdie.

"It was really fun watching Stacy play," said Ko, who was born in South Korea. "Kind of made me feel like I needed to play better. I spin my chip, like 10 yards from the pin (on 15), and I'm like, 'Oh, my God.' That was a shocking hole."

But Lewis, who was also the tournament leader by a shot after two rounds, broke the tie with another birdie on 17. Ko was cheered on by her dad, who goes by GH. He has caddied for her in two victories but is behind the ropes this week.

"Last week (in Hawaii), I was missing a lot of putts, so when he sees them going in this week, he's kind of surprised," Ko said of her dad's animated reactions.

As Saturday's round unfolded, Lewis and Ko, two of the bigger names in the LPGA, were fist-pumping and seemingly feeding off each other and the gallery.

Lewis stayed patient after getting pars on her first 11 holes, while seeing Ko take a one-shot lead with two birdies on the front nine.

Ko and Lewis will be in the same group for the fourth straight day for Sunday's final round.

"I love to play with her," Lewis said. "She doesn't take much time. We both kind of play fast. We got into a good rhythm there going back and forth."

Michelle Wie made a mini-move, but it wasn't enough to throw a scare into the leaders. Wie shot a 71, with three birdies and two bogeys, to put her 1-under for the tourney. At nine back, she's just off the leader board.

When she won last week in Hawaii, Wie had the luxury of hitting a wedge to virtually the green, but that isn't the case this week.

"I kind of hoped I would make a few more birdies today, but at the same time I'd take an under-par round here any day," said Wie, who's playing at Lake Merced for the first time.

Paula Creamer shot a 73 and is 5-over for the tournament.

"It's been great. It's so nice coming home," Creamer said. "It's such a good area. They love their sports here. " To have them come to watch me, it means a lot. It's really special.----

(c)2014 Contra Costa Times (Walnut Creek, Calif.)

Visit the Contra Costa Times (Walnut Creek, Calif.) at www.contracostatimes.com

Distributed by MCT Information Services

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LPGA


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