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September 23, 2017

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Wie & Thompson lead the way into LPGA final round

RANCHO MIRAGE, California -- Michelle Wie fired a bogey-free four-under par 68 on Saturday to join Lexi Thompson atop the leaderboard heading into the final round of the LPGA Kraft Nabisco Championship.

Thompson, the U.S. 19-year-old who shared the overnight lead with South Korean Hall-of-Famer Pak Se-Ri, surrendered the outright lead with a three-putt bogey at the 18th, capping a third-round 69 that left her tied with Wie on 10-under par 206.

They were two shots in front of veteran Pak and 18-year-old Charley Hull of England.

Pak led in the early going with three birdies in her first nine holes but fell back with three bogeys and just one birdie on her inward run.

Pak's one-under 71 left her tied for third on 208 with Hull of England, whose 66 was the low round of the day.

Hull had six birdies in her six-under effort to thrust herself into contention in the first major championship of the LPGA season.

Wie, a former teenage prodigy who competed in this tournament a decade ago as an amateur, has won two LPGA Tour titles, the most recent in 2010.

She was delighted Saturday to find herself in position to challenge for a major.

Older Wie 'more appreciative'

"It's very exciting," said Wie, who last shared the 54-hole lead at a major at the 2006 U.S. Women's Open.

"I'm definitely a lot more appreciative of where I am, going in with the lead," added the 24-year-old, who like Thompson is seeking a first major title.

Although she played without a bogey, Wie was unable to convert several chances on the greens, finishing her round with seven successive pars.

"I just thought the greens were a little bit quicker than they were, so I actually thought I hit them perfectly," Wie said of some long putts that didn't make it to the hole. "Just left a lot of putts short today, which is frustrating. But at the same time, it's a major, and you just have to be a little bit careful."

Thompson shot to prominence in 2011 when as a 16-year-old she became the youngest winner of an LPGA Tour event.

Although that record has since been eclipsed, Thompson has thrived, adding two more titles to her resume last year.

"Every tournament I go into is a learning experience," Thompson said. "Even if I play bad, I learn so much from it. But recently I've been trying to have a little bit more fun out there, smile, joke around and be relaxed.

"I think that's when my game comes out the most. So hopefully it will be a good Sunday for me."

Pak, 36, is a five-time major champion, but has never won the Kraft Nabisco.

She'll be playing Sunday alongside Hull, who made history last year as the youngest ever Solheim Cup player when she was selected as a wildcard by European captain Liselotte Neumann for the defence of the matchplay trophy against the United States.

Hull earned her first title as a professional last month at the Ladies European Tour event in Morocco.

"I really want to win again now because I've got the bug for it," Hull said. "I suppose anyone would have the bug for that, but it was all right."

Scotland's Catriona Matthew carded a 70 and American Cristie Kerr a 71 to share fifth place on 210.

They were one shot in front of South Korean Chella Choi and first-round leader Feng Shanshan of China. Choi carded a 69 and Feng posted a 72 for 211.

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