CAMBRIDGE, Ont. — Suzann Pettersen holds a slim one-stroke lead over Mariajo Uribe heading into the final round of the Manulife LPGA Classic at Whistle Bear Golf Club.
Tied with Uribe after two rounds, Pettersen jumped ahead early on Saturday with three birdies in the first three holes on the way to a round of 6-under par 66 for a three-round score of 19-under par.
Pettersen liked the way she started the day, but with just one birdie on the back nine holes, she felt that she left some shots on the course.
“I don’t know if I felt like I played that well today,” Pettersen said. “I kind of dried up a little bit towards the end. I had one good par save on the back nine on the par 3. Overall very happy, in a good position, but there’s a good job to be done tomorrow.”
Uribe tried to match her shot-for-shot, shaking off the two-stroke lead Pettersen held after nine holes and climbed to one shot back at 18-under par. Cristie Kerr’s birdie on the 18th hole put her in sole possession of third place at 17-under par.
Though the wind picked up and lowered scores, Pettersen said she’s going to have to take charge in the final round and set the pace.
“There’s a lot of people in the hunt for this and the course is playing great. I think it’s fun for the fans to see us shooting low scores and I’m excited to go back out there tomorrow and fight it to the very end.”
Pettersen, from Norway, has history on her side. She’s won the last four tournaments she’s led or was co-leader after 36 holes. Winning the Manulife Classic would mark her first victory on the LPGA Tour since the Sunrise Taiwan LPGA Championship in October 2013.
Uribe may have something to say about that though. The Colombian played a patient round and didn’t get flustered when Pettersen was playing well during the first nine holes. Even when she bogeyed the 11th hole, she came right back with a birdie.
“There’s so many options there to make birdie,” Uribe said of the course. “I didn’t really start that well, birdie on No. 1, and then didn’t really make birdie till the end of the front nine, so just stayed patient there.”
Hamilton’s Alena Sharp could have the best-ever finish by a Canadian at the Manulife Classic, carding 4-under par on the day for a three-round total of 11-under par and sits in a seven-way tie for 15th place. She holds the previous best mark, carding 11-under in 2013 for a share of 30th place.
Sharp is also looking for her first top 10 finish on the LPGA Tour since 2010, when she was tied for 10th at the Jamie Farr Owens Corning Classic. Still eight strokes back from the leader, Sharp feels that’s a more realistic goal.
“I don’t want to think about that, but that would be really nice finishing in the tournament in the top 10 heading into the KPMG (Women’s PGA Championship) next week,” Sharp said, adding that she figured she would have to get into the double digits to make a play for the frontrunners in the final round.
She was at 12-under par heading into the last hole, but a chip from the fringe beside the green on her third shot ran away from the hole and she had to settle for a bogey.
“I thought I was making a good move and I looked at the board at 18 and Suzann’s at 18-under. So, it is what it is and I’m just happy to keep making birdies. That’s always a good thing.”
Sharp noted that she drew some motivation from the Canadian crowds, who followed her on every hole and cheered every shot down the stretch.
“Look at the crowds today — 18, 17 — there’s people five or six deep in the crowd and a lot of people in the skyboxes. It’s nice to be cheered for,” she said.
Amateur Natalie Gleadall of Stratford, Ont., in the first group of the day, made a bit of a charge with a birdie, eagle on the par 4 13th hole and another birdie to reach 8-under par, but consecutive bogies dropped her to 2-under on the day and 6-under after three rounds.
“The emotions were all over the place,” said Gleadall, who went through the Monday qualifier to get in the tournament, about her rollercoaster final nine holes. “I made to huge putts and 17 and 18, just grinded it out.
“I’m really proud of an under par round today.”
Sara-Maude Juneau of Fossambault-Sur-Le-Lac, Que., finished at 5-under par, while Toronto’s Sue Kim was even on the day, finishing at 4-under par.
Bill Doucet, The Canadian Press