Posted at 1:28 p.m., Saturday, May 19, 2007
Lee leads Ochoa by two at LPGA's Sybase Classic
By Tom Canavan
The 28-year-old South Korean, however, will have to do it again if she wants to win her first LPGA Tour title.
Lee shot a near-flawless 7-under 65 today to open a two-shot lead over Ochoa after three rounds in the $1.4 million Sybase Classic, a tournament that has been seemingly been reduced to two-player race.
No one else is even close to the leaders.
"I'm really excited to play with Lorena Ochoa," said Lee, whose previous best finish was a second in 2004. "She's the No. 1 LPGA player and I really enjoyed it today."
It was fun to watch, too. Lee and Ochoa combined for 13 birdies, an eagle and three bogeys, or a combined 12 under on a cold, rainy day when the average score at the par-72 Upper Montclair Country Club was 73.648.
"It was fun to be out there," said Ochoa, looking for her first win since supplanting Annika Sorenstam for the top spot in the rankings last month. "At the start she was hitting closer and making birdies, and then I hit it closer and made birdie. It was fun to be in that last group."
Lee and Ochoa will be in the last pairing, and it's a good bet that one of them is going to win.
Lee, who has either led or shared the lead for the first two rounds, was a 16-under 200 total, the low 54-hole score on the tour this year. Ochoa was 14 under after her second straight 67. It was seven more shots back to Sherri Steinhauer, Kate Golden and Young Jo.
Ochoa, who has a win and seven top 10 finishes in nine events this year, was impressed playing with Lee, who had eight birdies and a bogey.
"You can tell that she keeps a positive attitude," Ochoa said. "She's happy and smiling and says 'thank you' and 'good shot' to every ball."
Lee also was more aggressive than last week ago when she went into the third round of the Michelob Ultra Classic with the two-shot lead and lost it. She had rounds of 72 and 74 over the final 36 holes to finish third.
"I made a mistake last week," Lee said. "I was really trying to protect something, protecting tee shots, protecting something. I learned from that you cannot protect anything. You know, you just go and play."
Tied at 9 under and playing in the final threesome, Lee and Ochoa quickly distanced themselves from the field on an afternoon that felt more like early April than May.
Lee birdied four of her first six holes and lost ground. Ochoa one-upped her with three birdies and an 8-foot eagle putt at the par-5 fifth hole.
Lee eventually took the lead for good with 4-foot birdie putt at No. 10 and a two-putt birdie from 24 feet on the par-5 11th.
When Ochoa, the winner last year at Wykagyl in Rochelle, N.Y., birdied the 13th from 10 feet to seemingly cut the lead to a stroke, Lee answered with a 7-footer.
"It was really fun," Lee said. "I really enjoyed it. She made a birdie. I made a birdie."
Ochoa fell three shots behind after hitting a tee shot into the bunker on the par-3, 15th hole, but Lee made her only costly mistake of the round when she missed the fairway to the right on the relatively straight 16th hole. She chipped to 7-feet while hitting from an awkward stance on the edge of a bunker, but she missed the 7-foot par-saver.
Neither Lee nor Ochoa planned a match play-approach to the final round. Both planned to be aggressive.
"I know that's it's going to take a low round to win the tournament," Ochoa said.