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Tseng takes lead in Australian tournament

TAIPEI -- Yani Tseng of Taiwan fired nine birdies in a bogey-free round to jump to the top of the leaderboard yesterday and take a three-shot lead into the final round of the Australian Ladies Masters at Gold Coast, Australia.

Tseng, ranked No. 2 in the Ladies Professional Golf Association (LPGA) world rankings, could overtake Jiyai Shin of South Korea as the world No. 1 if she wins the tournament Sunday.

The 22-year-old, voted the 2010 LPGA Player of the Year, shot a nine under par 63 in the third round for a 54-hole total of 20 under par 196 at the Royal Pines resort and narrowly missed an opportunity to tie the 62-stroke course record set by Australian golfer Karrie Webb after blowing a birdie putt at the final hole.

Tseng said in a post-game interview that she “played so much better than yesterday,” when she missed some easy putts, adding that she “feels comfortable right now” and is happy with her brilliant start of 2011.

She won the Taifong Ladies Open in Taiwan last month to open her season and followed up with a victory in the Women's Australian Open last week that moved her world ranking up three spots from No. 5 to No. 2.

Tseng shot 67 and 66 in the first two rounds, finishing a stroke behind American Stacey Lewis and Australian Kristie Smith heading into the third round. She opened the third round with three straight birdies and played consistently throughout the day with four birdies in the front nine and five in the back nine for the low round of the day.

Lewis, who shot 67 Saturday, was three strokes behind Tseng in second place with 17 under par, with American Ryann O'Toole another two shots back. Australia's Ashleigh Simon, who shot 68, was fourth at 14 under par.

Tseng, who also won the Taifong Ladies Open in Taiwan and the Ladies Australian Open at the beginning of 2010, went on that year to win two majors — the Kraft Nabisco Championship and the Women's British Open — and this year, her goal is to win the only major championship to have eluded her in her young career — the U.S. Open.

Following the Australian Ladies Open, a tournament of the European Ladies Tour, Tseng will begin her 2011 LPGA season at Honda LPGA Thailand, which will be held Feb. 17-20 in Chonburi, Thailand.

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