Reuters/Rio Grande, Puerto Rico
Ian Poulter, without a win in more than four years, birdied two of the final four holes to grab the third-round lead at the Puerto Rico Open on Saturday.
World number 67 Poulter, the highest ranked player in the field, made a late decision to travel to the Caribbean island after missing out on a place in this week’s WGC-Dell Match Play event by one spot.
But the Englishman is making his trip worthwhile, a 68 giving him an 11-under 205 total with one round left at Coco Beach. Americans Tony Finau, Jonathan Byrd and Steve Marino trail by one stroke. Overnight leader Rafael Campos, seeking to become the first Puerto Rican to win a PGA Tour event since Chi Chi Rodriguez at the 1979 Tallahassee Open, kept his chances alive with a 72 to fall two shots behind.
Poulter, 40, is winless since the 2012 WGC-HSBC Championship in China. “It’s been a while since I’ve been right there to have an opportunity to win a tournament,” he told PGATour.com.
“I’ve got to take things slowly. I’m trying to improve my swing. I’m trying to improve my consistency on the course. There has been a lot of good stuff and lot of bad stuff as well. It’s about time to not allow the bad stuff to kick in, keep persevering, keep working on the swing and hopefully at some stage the adrenaline will kick in and get me across the line.”
American George McNeill, who started the day in second place, was disqualified after the round for having used a non-conforming club, the tour announced.
Ko in the driver’s seat at Kia Classic
World number one Lydia Ko carded a bogey-free 67 to seize a three-shot lead after three rounds of the Kia Classic in southern California on Saturday.
New Zealander Ko began the day tied for second with Brittany Lang and one shot behind leader Jenny Shin but surged three clear after shooting a tidy five-under round for a 14-under 202 total.
Lang is tied with South Koreans Shin and Park Sung-hyun at 11 under at the demanding Aviara course in Carlsbad.
Ko was two-under for her front nine then reeled off three straight birdies from the 11th to put her in a strong position to win her 11th LPGA Tour title.
“You don’t get that many opportunities where you’re going into the final round with a three-shot lead,” the 18-year-old said. “But I’ll take it. I’d rather be a couple shots ahead than a couple shots behind.”
Park kicked off a run of five consecutive birdies at the 12th but an errant tee shot on 17 led to a double bogey. She hit back immediately though with a birdie on the final hole to stay in touch. Australia’s Minjee Lee provided the highlight of the day when her 5-wood tee shot at the 275-yard par-4 16th landed in front of the green, kicked left and rolled into the cup for the second hole-in-one on a par-4 in LPGA history. The first came earlier this year from South Korean Jang Ha-na in the Bahamas.
“Just lucky,” said Lee, adding that it was her first hole-in-one. “I hit a good one shot, though. It’s a bit of both.”
World number two Park In-bee is four strokes off the pace on 10-under with Jessica Korda a shot further back.
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