Lincicome maintains lead, up by one shot

JOHN KEKIS AP Sports Writer Published:

PITTSFORD, N.Y. (AP) -- Brittany Lincicome maintained her lead Saturday in the LPGA Championship, the tour's fourth major championship of the season.

The long-hitting Lincicome began the day at Monroe Golf Club with a three-shot advantage over Inbee Park and Lexi Thompson and shot 1-under 71 to finish at 10-under 206.

With one round left, Lincicome was a shot ahead of Park and Suzann Pettersen. Pettersen had a 67 and Park shot 69.

Mirim Lee was alone in fourth at 7 under after a 69. Seventeen-year-old Lydia Ko had a 71 to join Meena Lee and Gerina Piller at 6 under. Piller shot 69, and Lee had a 71.

Thompson finished with a 74 and was at 4 under.

Lincicome won the 2009 Kraft Nabisco for her lone major title and has five LPGA Tour victories. The United States is seeking to win its fourth straight major title of the season.

Pettersen has five top-5s in her last eight majors, including a victory last year in the Evian Championship, and she continued her solid play when it matters most, reeling off four birdies on the back nine.

"I seem to like the back nine. I like what I see," Pettersen said. "I managed to make a move. It's nice to make a charge. I actually could have had a couple more."

Fighting nervousness, Lincicome hadn't held a second-round lead since 2009 and never in a major.

"Nervous was probably an understatement. My stomach was in knots," Lincicome said. "When it came time to eat lunch, it just wasn't happening because I haven't been in this position in a while. Hopefully, going into tomorrow it's out of my system."

Lincicome is 11 under on the par 5s, a distinct advantage over most of her challengers.

Pettersen birdied Nos. 10 and 11 and had a chance to forge a tie at the par-5 14th hole, but her eagle try slid just past the cup and she settled for a birdie that moved her into a tie with Park at 8 under.

Moments later, Lincicome recovered from an errant second shot that landed in the rough on the par-5 12th hole, pitching to 5 feet and making birdie to regain a two-shot lead.

Pettersen continued her rush, nearly holing a fairway shot at No. 15 and reached 9 under with a tap-in birdie. When Lincicome lipped her par putt at No. 13, the two were tied at 9 under.

Lincicome regained the lead with a birdie at the par-5 14th hole and nearly made it a two-shot advantage, but her long birdie try at No. 15 stopped at the lip and stayed out.

The closing three holes at Monroe rank among the four most difficult on the course and Pettersen parred all three to keep the pressure on.

Lincicome saved par at the par-3 16th hole after driving a fairway bunker. Her tough 12-foot par putt broke ever-so-slightly right to left and barely dropped in, eliciting a big smile from the American, who parred the final two holes to maintain her slim lead.

Lincicome got some breathing room early when Thompson started badly. Thompson had a three-putt bogey at the opening hole, lipping out a short putt for par, and followed with another bogey at No. 2 to drop five shots behind. She recovered with a birdie at No. 3 and parred the next six holes to make the turn at 5 under.

Park, the defending champion, moved a shot closer to the top with a birdie at No. 4 after Lincicome's birdie try stopped an inch short of the hole. Park was within a shot of the top when Lincicome made bogey at the par-4 fifth hole, missing a short par putt.

Unfazed, Lincicome stuck her approach shot at the par-4 seventh hole to within a foot and made birdie to restore her two-shot lead over Park and Lee, whose long birdie putt at No. 7 forged a tie for second.

Lincicome followed by hitting her tee shot at the par-3 eighth hole one hop off the flag, clutching her head with both hands hoping it might drop for an ace. It didn't, rolling to the back fringe, and she settled for par. Park then calmly stepped up and drained an 8-foot birdie putt from the fringe to narrow the lead to one shot.

The long-hitting Lincicome had taken advantage of the generous par-5s on the first two rounds, birdieing all four on the opening round and adding two more to go with an eagle on Friday. She made par at the first par-5 on Saturday when her ball landed in a greenside bunker at No. 3, but made birdie again at the par-5 ninth hole to make the turn at 10 under.

Lincicome gave the shot right back on the next hole when her short putt for par curved inches left of the hole and she made bogey.

A gusting 25 mph wind strafed the course all day Friday, sending leaves and bits of bark onto some greens. There was only a slight breeze with a light rain on Saturday.

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