CARLSBAD, Calif. — The breaks evened out for Yani Tseng on the final two holes in the third round of the Kia Classic, though she thought La Costa’s bumpy greens still owed her a few strokes.
“I guess I got some good breaks and I got some bad breaks,” the top-ranked Taiwanese star said. “This is golf. Some things are going to happen.”
She remained in position for her second straight LPGA Tour title and third in five events this year, shooting a bogey-free 3-under 69 on Saturday to take a three-stroke lead.
Tseng got a bad break when her short birdie try on the par-5 17th staggered to the right.
“I couldn’t believe I missed that,” Tseng said. “I made a good stroke. I see my ball, it was like boom, boom, boom, and it jumped to the right. It was just like, what is this happening? I mean, you can see very clear the ball is jumping to the right. It’s not like I misread it or something.”
She got a good break on the 18th when her drive went right, but stayed on the cart path and crossed over a bridge, traveling about 370 yards. Her second shot, however, went past the flag and she was fortunate to two-putt for par from 45 feet, holing out from 8 feet.
“No. 18, that was a pretty lucky shot,” Tseng said. “I don’t know how that happened. It goes over the bridge, and the bridge was like 3 yards wide. People are telling me, ‘Yani, you just hit a 370-yard drive.' So, that was probably the longest drive I’ve ever hit.
“I was very happy because I just got lucky there. To be able to hit it on the green for the second shot. But overall with my round, I just wasn’t happy. I couldn’t believe how much short putt I missed.”
Tseng missed four putts from 6 feet or closer and finished with 30 putts.
“The green are pretty bumpy,” Tseng said. “So when I hit it just straight, it bumped to the right or to the left. I just tried my best, but I was just thinking it was unlucky.”
The 23-year-old star won the LPGA Founders Cup last week in Phoenix for her 14th LPGA Tour title, and also won the LPGA Thailand in February. She led the tour last season with seven victories — including major victories in the LPGA Championship and Women’s British Open — and finished the year with 12 worldwide titles.
“I kind of feel pretty relaxed,” Tseng said. “I was pretty happy. I’m going to go putt a little bit and practice a little bit. I’m really looking forward to tomorrow.”
South Korea’s Jiyai Shin was second after a 68.
“This tournament is a Korean company that sponsors it, so I’m all the time thinking about that,” Shin said. “I appreciate the sponsor every time. In California, here they have a lot of Korean people, so they’re watching and cheering for me, so it feels like I’m really ready to go when I play. The last couple years, I played good in this tournament, so I only have good memories.”
South Korea’s Sun Young Yoo and Sweden’s Caroline Hedwall were 7 under. Yoo had a 67 — the best round of the day — and Hedwall three-putted from 5 feet for a bogey on the 18th to settle for a 70.
“I just wanted to hole the putt, and got a long second putt,” Hedwall said. “Oh, well, I will forget about it pretty soon.”
Because of expected stormy weather Sunday, the tour moved up the Sunday tee times four hours and will start the players in threesomes off both the first and 10th tees. Last week in Phoenix, the tour didn’t move up the tee times for the final round and nearly didn’t finish after the round was delayed three times for a total of three hours because of lightning.
“Hopefully, I stay patient another day,” Tseng said.
Tseng opened with a 67 for a share of the first-round lead, and had a 68 on Friday to pull two strokes ahead. In her last six events with the 54-hole lead, she has won five times, the only loss coming last year in the Kraft Nabisco. She’s 6-5 overall with the 54-hole lead.
Shin had seven birdies and three bogeys. She birdied the first three holes, and got within a stroke of Tseng with a birdie on No. 6. Shin bogeyed Nos. 9, 10 and 12, and rallied with birdies on Nos. 13, 14 and 17.
“I played with Yani in Singapore, and we’re very close,” Shin said. “We’re very good friends, so I’m really excited to play with Yani. She hits it really long, so I just keep focusing on my game.”
Se Ri Pak, two strokes behind Tseng after the second round, had a 73 to drop to 6 under.