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June 27, 2017

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Inbee Park takes 3-shot lead into Kraft Nabisco final round

RANCHO MIRAGE, California -- Inbee Park had a bogey-free round on Saturday to open a three-stroke lead going into the final round of the Kraft Nabisco Championship.

The South Korean bolstered her lead with a birdie at the 17th hole, putting her tee shot within three feet of the pin whereas her nearest rival Lizette Salas found a bunker.

"It was actually a little bit of a mis-shot," Park said. "I aimed a little more right, but I slightly pulled it and it ended up perfect."

Bogey-free in her last 22 holes at Mission Hills, Park shot her second straight 5-under 67 in tricky wind conditions to reach 12 under.

Hall of Famer Karrie Webb, the tournament winner in 2000 and 2006, was five strokes back at 6 under along with Suzann Pettersen, Angela Stanford, Jessica Korda, Karine Icher and Pornanong Phatlum. Stanford had a 66, the best round of the tournament. Webb and Pettersen shot 67, Korda and Icher 68, and Phatlum 70.

Park matched Salas with a birdie on the par-4 opening hole and got to 9 under with a 25-foot birdie putt on the par-3 ninth.

Park stretched her advantage to two strokes with another 25-foot birdie putt on the par-4 10th, then nearly holed her 9-iron approach on the par-4 12th, leaving only 2{ feet for another birdie that pushed the lead to three.

Salas pulled within two with a birdie on the par-4 13th, but Park countered with the birdie on 17. Salas managed to save par on 17 after hitting into the bunker, then missed a chance to get closer on the par-5 18th when her 6-foot birdie attempt slid by to the right.

"I wasn't hitting the ball as well as the first two days, but I kept putting myself in good position, hit some good shots out of the rough, and hit a great bunker shot on 17 to get up and down for par," Salas said.

Stanford rebounded with the 66 after opening with rounds of 70 and 74.

"I've kind of been fighting it all week and I kind of found a thought that worked the rest of the day," Stanford said. "I made the turn and started hitting some good shots."

Pettersen, playing on her 32nd birthday, birdied the final four holes. She had a share of the first-round lead after a 68, then dropped back with a 75 on Friday.

"I probably should have had six straight birdies coming in," said Pettersen, a three-time runner-up in the event. "I've given myself a chance for tomorrow."

The 38-year-old Webb won the last of her 38 tour titles in 2011.

"I'm just glad I gave myself a chance," Webb said. "If we can get some breeze going tomorrow, that'll make it interesting."

Korda, the 20-year-old daughter of former tennis star Petr Korda, is spending time with her family for the first time since January.

"It's really nice," said Korda, the Women's Australian Open winner last year. "My brother and sister got so big. It was really nice to see everybody. I miss my dad's humor and my mom's calmness, and she did my laundry last night, so it was kind of nice."

Michelle Wie had a 73 to drop to 1 under. She has broken 70 only once in 17 rounds this season and is using an unorthodox putting stance with her torso bent parallel to the ground,

Top-ranked Stacy Lewis was 1 under after a 71.

"Coming into the week my swing didn't feel great and I was kind of hoping I would figure things out by now, but I just haven't," said Lewis, the 2011 champion.

She has struggled after winning consecutive events this year in Singapore and Phoenix to take the top spot in the world from Yani Tseng.

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