Pittsford, N.Y. — Brittany Lincicome beamed. She had fought off the jitters while leading an LPGA Tour major and it felt oh-so-good.
Lincicome, who hadn’t held a second-round lead since 2009 and never in a major, shot a 1-under 71 on Saturday at the LPGA Championship to finish the third round at 10-under 206. That was one shot better than Suzann Pettersen (67) of Norway and defending champion Inbee Park (69) of South Korea as the fourth major championship of the season heads to the final round.
“Nervous is 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.”
Mirim Lee of South Korea was alone in fourth at 7 under after a 69, while 17-year-old Lydia Ko (71) of New Zealand was another shot back along with South Korea’s Meena Lee (71) and Gerina Piller (69).
The long-hitting Lincicome began the day at Monroe Golf Club with a three-shot advantage over Park and Lexi Thompson, who 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.
Lincicome is 11 under on the generous par-5s at Monroe Golf Club, a distinct advantage over most of her challengers and surely the reason Park wasn’t looking down from the top of the leaderboard.
“I hate talking about it. I feel like I’m going to jinx myself,” Lincicome said. “If I can hit it on the fairway, get it on the green and two-putt, it’s stress-free. I feel like my tempo the last couple of days has been really, really good. We’re going to be more aggressive (Sunday).”
Lincicome birdied all four par 5s on the opening round and added two more to go with an eagle on Friday.
“This golf course is not exactly for short hitters,” said Park, who won three majors last year. “She was probably 50 yards ahead of me. I haven’t really played that well on the par-5s. I only made one today, none the first day. That’s a big difference. If I had made a couple I’d be up. It feels like a little bit of a disadvantage. It’s an easy birdie for her.”
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.”
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.
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.
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.
Greensboro, N.C. — Nick Watney birdied the final hole for a 5-under 65 and a one-stroke lead after the third round of the Wyndham Championship.
Watney made a 20-foot birdie putt from the right edge of the green on the par-4 18th. The five-time PGA Tour winner had a 14-under 196 total at Sedgefield Country Club.
Brad Fritsch was second after a 65.
Freddie Jacobson and second-round co-leader Heath Slocum were 12 under in the PGA Tour’s regular-season finale. Jacobson shot a 66, and Slocum had a 68.
Former Wyndham winners Brandt Snedeker and Webb Simpson joined second-round co-leader Scott Langley at 11 under. Snedeker and Simpson shot 66, and Langley had a 69.
Johns Creek, Ga. — Canadian Corey Conners and South Korean Gunn Yang set up the second straight all-foreign final in the U.S. Amateur.
Conners beat Denny McCarthy of Rockville, Maryland, 1 up at Atlanta Athletic Club, and Yang edged Frederick Wedel of The Woodlands, Texas, in 19 holes.
Last year in the 36-hole final at The Country Club in Brookline, Massachusetts, England’s Matthew Fitzpatrick beat Australia’s Oliver Goss.
Conners, from Listowel, Ontario, is the first Canadian to reach the final since Gary Cowan won his second title in 1971. Last year, Conners lost to Fitzpatrick in the semifinals.
Yang is a sophomore at San Diego State.
The finalists earned spots in the Masters next year, as long as they remain amateurs.
Made In Denmark
Aalborg, Denmark — Scotland’s Marc Warren shot a 5-under 66 in strong wind for a share of the Made in Denmark lead with Wales’ Bradley Dredge.
Dredge had a 73. The leaders were at 6-under 207 at Himmerland.