Neumann leads by one at Tournament of Champions
MOBILE, Ala. -- Liselotte Neumann made a 15-foot birdie putt at the 18th hole for a 5-under 67 Saturday and a one-stroke lead after three rounds of the Mitchell Company LPGA Tournament of Champions.
With the closing birdie, Neumann broke out of a four-way tie and moved into the lead at 11-under 205 on the Magnolia Grove Golf Club's Crossings Course.
Defending champion Heather Daly-Donofrio had a 68 and joined Australia's Rachel Hetherington (72) and U.S. Solheim Cup star Christina Kim (72) at 10-under 206. Hetherington and Kim shared the lead and a four-stroke advantage heading into the third round.
Hall of Famer Juli Inkster, looking for her first victory since the 2003 Evian Masters, birdied No. 18 for a 68 and moved within three strokes of the lead at 8 under.
Neumann birdied four of her first six holes to erase a four-shot deficit and take the lead. She reached 11 under with a two-putt birdie at the par-5 16th, but gave that stroke back with a three-putt bogey at the par-3 17th, falling into a four-way tie for the lead before a birdie at the last.
"It's interesting how it works out sometimes," the 39-year-old Neumann said. "Someone up in the lead could have shot 2, 3 or 4 under and I still would have been quite a ways behind. If you shoot 5 or 6 under, you figure that you are going to hopefully catch up to someone."
Neumann won the event in 1996 at Grand Cypress Resort in Orlando, Fla., and finished 10th last year. She qualified for the field of 43 LPGA winners from the last four years and active Hall of Fame members by virtue of her victory at the 2004 Asahi Ryokuken Championship, her first since 1998.
"I'm sure I'm going to feel a little bit in my stomach tomorrow," Neumann said. "That is part of it. That is a good feeling because that just means it really means something to play well and win. ... I just want to focus on every shot and just do the best I can on every shot and try to make as many birdies as possible. That's been my strategy for these first three days. I think I'm going to stick to it. It's working so far."
Daly-Donofrio had six birdies and two bogeys to remain in contention to repeat.
"I don't want to give up that trophy just yet," said Daly-Donofrio. "At the beginning of the week, I just wanted to give myself a chance on Sunday and I've done that. Tomorrow is going to be really exciting. There are a lot of players bunched up at the top and I'm looking forward to it."
Kim got to 11 under with a birdie at the 16th, but fell back with a bogey at the 17th.
"I think Heather might have a little advantage tomorrow," Kim said. "I think she's still glowing after winning here last year and she right there again. She's made a lot of birdies out here, which you are going to have to do tomorrow. I just have to go out and stick to my plan to be aggressive."
Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press
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