Australia's Minjee Lee will head into tomorrow morning's final round of the ANA Inspiration with a chance of capturing her first major championship.
The twenty-year-old shot a superb third round 68 which included six birdies, and will start the final round in a tie for third place and just three shots behind the leader, American Lexi Thompson.
Lee moved to 5 under for the day and into outright second before a disappointing bogey at the 17th, where she missed a putt from just over a metre, and just a par at the reachable par-five 18th hole meant that she would head into the final round 3 shots back.
“Pretty good,” said Lee when asked about her third round 68. “I started off with two birdies and I think overall I had a pretty solid day even though I had two bogeys.”
Lee credited her return to form this week after two missed cuts in Phoenix and San Diego to her improved putting,
“I think it's more belief. I know it's there, but I wasn't seeing them go in. So yeah, this week I've been holing a couple more putts, so it's nice.
“It feels really good coming off two missed cuts, obviously. I wasn't feeling too good. But going into tomorrow, I'm just going to try and have fun.”
The West Australian's previous best finish in a major championship was at the 2015 Ricoh Women's British Open at Hoylake when she finished in a tie for ninth, and she will be looking to improve on that finish when she tees off at 1:51pm on Sunday afternoon at Mission Hills Golf Club in Rancho Mirage, California.
The 2014 champion Lexi Thompson will take a two-shot lead into the final round over Norway’s Suzanne Pettersen, after the 22-year-old shot her second successive round of 67 in the third round. Lee is a further shot back in a share of 3rd place with Koreans Mi Jung Hur, So Yeon Ryu and Olympic Champion and former world number one Inbee Park.
Thompson has twice before held the 54-hole lead at the ANA Inspiration going on to win in 2014, and knows that those experiences will be valuable in tomorrow's final round,
“Yeah, well, that experience always helps me out, but I'm just going to focus on tomorrow, focus on one shot at a time, relax out there between shots, and just focus on doing my routine, visualising my shots out there,” explained Thompson.
Thompson clearly feels comfortable over the Mission Hills layout, not only did she win this event three years ago, she finished 5th in 2015 and 7th in 2016, and she is 21-under in her last seven rounds at Mission Hills Country Club.
“I just love this golf course. I get to hit a lot of drivers, and it just sets up well,” said Thompson. “There's a few doglegs left, which helps me out. I love being here. It's just absolutely beautiful, and it's always in great shape for us.”
Pettersen, who has been a runner-up in this event three times, kept her chances of diving into Poppy's pond for the first time tomorrow alive with two late birdies for a round of 68, ensuring that she would play alongside Thompson in the final group.
Amongst the four players sharing 7th position at 8 under and five back are the World Number 2, Thai star Ariya Jutanugarn, and Americans Christie Kerr and Michele Wie.
Sarah Jane Smith is the next best placed Australian in a share of 11th place and although eight shots from the lead she is well placed to secure her first top 10 finish in a major championship, her previous best being14th place at the 2010 LPGA Championship.
Su Oh was the only other Australian to make it through to the weekend after sneaking in right on the cut number, and shot an impressive a third round 69 to move up into a share of 43rd place.
Live scoring can be found at lpgascoring.com
Watch the final round action live on Fox Sports Australia on Monday morning from 7am AEST
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