The signature smile of Rolex Rankings No. 15 Yani Tseng was on full display during the third round of the Safeway Classic Presented by Coca-Cola as the Taiwanese star shot a 9-under 63 to take a three-shot lead with 18 holes to play.
The former world No. 1 and 15-time LPGA Tour winner carded 11 birdies and two bogeys at Columbia Edgewater Country Club and holds the third-round lead for the first time since the 2012 Kraft Nabisco Championship where she finished third.
This marks the 15th time in her career Tseng has led or co-led after third round. Ten of her 15-career wins have come after leading or co-leading through 54 holes. Rolex Rankings No. 3 Suzann Pettersen (70) and No. 56 Pornanong Phatlum (71) trail Tseng by three shots and are in a tie for second at 15-under par. A group of four players are tied for fourth including Americans Stacy Lewis, Lizette Salas and Morgan Pressel and Swedenâ€™s Anna Nordqvist.
This week marks the 37th start since Tseng has found her way into the winnerâ€™s circle at an LPGA event and according to the 24-year old, it has been a long journey in an effort to get back to the top.
â€œI don`t know what is the media center now,â€ said Tseng. â€œIt`s been a long time. I came in here for a while, and it`s great to be back in position again, and I just haven`t been on this position for a really long time. I was really happy out there and really enjoyed, and the gallery here are awesome and they give us very big support, and I just love every part of the golf out there and really enjoyed every shot.â€
Tseng held the No. 1 position in the Rolex Rankings for 109 consecutive weeks until being overtaken by Stacy Lewis at this yearâ€™s RR Donnelley LPGA Founders Cup. Since the tournament in March, Tseng has posted only one top-20 finish and has missed the past four out of five cuts. Sheâ€™ll be playing with close friend Suzann Pettersen in the final round.
â€œThere`s no one that I`d rather see playing better and playing well again than Yani,â€ said Pettersen. â€œI know she`s been through a very rough patch. Like I said to her, she`s just got to stay patient. She`s too good not to kind of hang tough and be in the game. But it`s fun to see, and hopefully we`ll play together.â€
2013 LPGA Tour rookie Austin Ernst went on an early routing of the track at Columbia Edgewater Country Club and tied the course record with a 10-under 62. She tied Annika Sorenstam (2002- 2nd round) and Beth Daniel (2003- 1st round) for the record and did so playing by herself in the first tee time of the day at 7:30am local time.