RANCHO MIRAGE, Calif. (AP) — Patty Tavatanakit opened a five-stroke lead on another hot and windy afternoon at the ANA Inspiration, all but crushing her challengers’ hopes with a striking combination of power and touch.
A stroke ahead after each of the first two rounds at Mission Hills, the 21-year-old Thai player shot a 5-under 67 in 100-degree heat Saturday to reach 14-under 202 in the first major championship of the year.
Tavatanakit matched the tournament 54-hole record set by Pernilla Lindberg in her 2018 victory. Dottie Pepper set the overall mark of 19 under in 1999.
Defending champion Mirim Lee and Ally Ewing were second at 9 under in the event being played without spectators for the second time in seven months.
Tavatanakit crushed drives — hitting a 337-yarder on the par-5 11th — and was equally as effective on and around the greens. The former UCLA star birdied the first three holes, holing a 20-footer on the par-4 third. She holed a 12-footer for birdie on the par-5 ninth after hitting her second into a greenside bunker, and made a 15-footer on 11 to open a five-stroke lead.
After a series of par saves, she couldn’t get a 4-footer to drop on the par-4 12th. She rebounded with a wedge to 4 feet for a birdie on the par-4 13th, and made an 8-footer on the par-4 15th.
Tavatanakit bogeyed the par-3 17th, failing to get up-and-down from a difficult lie in a greenside bunker. She escaped the par-5 18th with a par after her third shot spun off the front of the green to the edge of the water.
The tour rookie is trying to become the sixth straight international winner in the tournament celebrating its 50th edition. She won seven times in two seasons at UCLA and had three victories on the Symetra Tour in 2019.
Lee shot a 68, wearing a facemask while she played. The South Korean player won the postponed event in September for her first major title.
Ewing had a bogey-free 66. The American won last year at Reynolds Lake Oconee for her first tour title, playing then under her maiden name of McDonald.
Shanshan Feng, a stroke behind playing partner Tavatanakit entering the round, was 8 under after a 72. The Chinese star is making her first start after sitting out 16 months because of the coronavirus pandemic and a visa delay.
Inbee Park and Charley Hull were 7 under.
Park shot a 70. The 2013 winner at Mission Hills, she won last week in her first start of the year.
Hull had a triple bogey on No. 3 and a closing bogey in a 71.
Americans Lexi Thompson, Stacy Lewis and Jessica Korda were undone by big numbers.
Lewis played the first 13 holes in 8 under, then made a triple bogey on 14 in a 67 that left her 4 under.
Korda was the first player on and off the course, teeing off by herself at 7:55 a.m. and finishing a 68 in 2 hours, 52 minutes. She closed with a double bogey to fall to 3 under after laying up into a divot and hitting her third shot into the water.
Thompson finished with a quadruple-bogey 9 for a 75 to fall to 1 over. The 2014 winner had a triple bogey on No. 3.
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