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Rookie Lydia Ko leads JTBC Founders Cup after 2 birdies

PHOENIX -- New Zealand teenager Lydia Ko topped the crowded leaderboard in the JTBC Founders Cup, pulling ahead with two late birdies Saturday.

The 16-year-old shot a 5-under 67 to reach 16-under 200 at Desert Ridge. She tapped in for birdie on the par-5 15th after missing an 8-foot eagle putt and took the outright lead with a 10-footer on the par-3 17th.

Jessica Korda and Mirim Lee were a stroke back, and a dozen players were within four shots on a course that gave up a 63 and two 64s in the third round.

“Obviously, there's going to be some nerves,” Ko said. “Of course, that's always there.”

Ko was 3 under on Wildfire's Arnold Palmer-designed front nine Saturday after playing it in even par the first two days. She eagled the par-5 fifth after hitting a 5-wood to 7 feet. She's 13 under on the Nick Faldo-designed back nine, where the tournament will be decided.

“I played much better on the front nine, so I was really happy with that,” Ko said.

Ko tapped in for birdie on the par-5 15th after missing an eagle try and took the outright lead with a 10-footer on the par-3 17th.

“You never know until the last hole, last putt,” Ko said.

Ko won the Canadian Women's Open as an amateur the last two years and took the Swinging Skirts World Ladies Masters in December in Thailand in her second start as a professional. She has five victories in pro events, also winning in Australia and New Zealand.

“It would be pretty special and especially at the Founders Cup,” Ko said. “Without the founders, there would be no LPGA. This has been my dream tour.”

Ko will play alongside Korda. They also played together in the first two rounds.

“It's always cool to play with her,” Ko said.

Korda, the winner in the season-opening event in the Bahamas, birdied the final two holes for her second bogey-free 66 in a row.

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 Scott sneaks by to lead bid for title, top spot 
Lydia Ko, of New Zealand, waves to fans after a par putt on the 16th green during the third round of the JTBC LPGA Founders Cup at Wildfire Golf Club in Phoenix, Arizona on Saturday, March 22. (AFP)

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