Mallon's 74 drops her into tie for third
SYLVANIA, Ohio -- From a major championship across the Atlantic to a tournament near Toledo, Karen Stupples is dominating.
Stupples shot a 3-under 68 Saturday to build a three-stroke lead over Marilyn Lovander through three rounds of the Jamie Farr Owens Corning Classic.
Stupples is trying for victories in consecutive weeks, and attempting to stop Se Ri Pak's bid for a record-tying fifth win at the Farr.
Pak is trying to become only the second player to win the same LPGA event five times, matching Mickey Wright who won the Sea Island Open in 1957-58, 1960-61 and 1963. After shooting a 72, Pak is tied for fifth, five shots back heading into the final round at Highland Meadows Golf Club.
"It will not be easy," Pak said after a third-round 72 while playing in the same pairing with Stupples. "Especially because she has so much confidence in her game."
Even as the greens dried out and became hard and fast, Stupples, coming off a victory at last week's Women's British Open, was consistent.
She collected pars without much effort and threw in three timely birdies to move to 8-under 205. Lovander, 49, is attempting to become the oldest player to win an LPGA Tour event. She faltered down the stretch, bogeying two of the last three holes for a 69 that left her at 208.
"I've been working all year at being a has-been," said Lovander, who has battled a sinus infection and hasn't finished better than a tie for 18th this year. "To get a win instead of being a never-was would be great."
Tied for third, four shots back, are Jeong Jang (68) and second-round co-leader Meg Mallon, who struggled to a 74. Lori Kane matched the day's low round with a 67 and was tied for fifth with Pak, Lorena Ochoa (69), Nancy Scranton (69), Leta Lindley (71), Brandie Burton (74) and Karrie Webb (73) at 210.
Pak is still in contention, despite her deficit and the number of players in front of her. In back-to-back rounds in 1998 -- the first time she won the Farr -- she had rounds of 61 and 63.
"I shot 10 under before on this golf course. Who knows?" Pak said when asked if she still could catch Stupples. "Hopefully I make every putt tomorrow and I could catch up."
It'll be difficult the way Stupples is playing. The two-time winner hit 12 of 14 fairways and 15 of 18 greens in regulation. She unleashed a 297-yard drive on the 16th hole -- 12 yards farther than anyone else in the field.
"I was very patient and took every shot as it came," she said.
Her approach won't change in the final round.
"I'm just going to try to play my own game. Obviously, I have a bit of a lead so I'll play the way I want to play," she said.
Mallon, the U.S. Women's Open champ, took a two-shot lead with a birdie on the second hole. Then, she had three bogeys in a seven-hole span while Stupples was making birdies on Nos. 3 and 9 to take over the top spot.
Stupples continued to hit fairways and greens while others faltered. After missing a quick 6-footer for birdie at the 16th hole, Stupples rolled in a 15-footer for birdie on the next hole to extend her lead.
"If you eliminate mistakes, you're always going to play well," she said. "I always feel I should make three to seven birdies a round. If you take away the bogeys, then you're going to have a good score."
Lovander turned pro in 1992 and has never finished higher than a tie for 10th in 165 LPGA events. Should she win, she would be almost three years older than Beth Daniels, who became the tour's oldest winner last year at the Canadian Women's Open.
Lovander shared the lead with Stupples until erratic play led to the two late bogeys.
"It was bound to catch up to me," she said. "I made a lot of pars out there that I shouldn't have."
Mallon blamed the slick greens for her troubles.
"The course came close to getting away from everybody today," she said. "It's so hard and so fast. The greens are almost impossible to hold."
Or at least it seemed that way to everyone but Stupples.
"I'm so happy," she said. "Everything is going so well."
Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press