Defending champion Juli Inkster continued her domination of Longs Drugs Challenge at Twelve Bridges Golf Club, extending her lead to three with a six-under-par 66 in the third round. The California native held a three-shot lead throughout most of the day over playing partner Brandie Burton, who shot 68 (-4). Burton stands at a tournament total of 10-under-par, while consistent Carin Koch shot three-under par 69 for the third consecutive day.
Inkster, who heads into the final round with a tournament total of 13-under-par, was able to record six birdies during her round and ended the day with a spectacular 18-foot putt to save par on the 18th.
"I really wanted to make that one-I had played so good," said Inkster, who is hoping to win her 23rd LPGA title tomorrow. "But everyday, I've had a downhill lie; everyday I've missed the green right and everyday I have been able to save par. Hopefully, tomorrow I'll make it a little less dramatic."
It will be dramatic no matter what. Inkster has a pretty good track record of Sunday golf this season with a scoring average of 66.75 during her final rounds. For Inkster, this marks the 20th time in her career that she has been leading heading into the final round of a tournament, and so far she has won nine of those times.
"This is a great field," said Inkster. "And if you win, you want to know that you have beaten the best field possible."
At this event last year, Inkster headed into the final round with a three-shot lead as well and tackled the windy conditions and cooler weather with a final round score of 70. Looking at tomorrow's forecast of heavy rain for the California coast, Inkster admits that even par be a good score for this course.
When asked about tomorrow's potential match-play situation, Inkster commented on her competition against fellow Tour player and Solheim Cup teammate Burton.
"It's so great to see Brandie Burton playing well again," said Inkster. "She's entirely capable of putting up a low round tomorrow. It's going to be a good dog fight."
Coming in to the 2000 season, after taking 14 months off the Tour to rehabilitate from two shoulder surgeries, Burton finds herself in contention for the second time this season after posting a bogey free round that included four birdies. Burton placed second in the LPGA Cup Noodles Ladies Hawaiian Open earlier this year, but admits that this time she had her eye on the top prize.
"You know my first tournament back, basically after 14 months off I came into it wanting to win," said Burton. "I didn't play to take second. I always enter to win and never to take second. I try to be in contention and set my sights on winning."
Another contender has a chance at her first win on the LPGA Tour- Koch. The Swede took second at the 1998 Longs Drugs Challenge and hopes to break out of the runner-up position, which she has visited four times in her career. Koch wowed the galleries with a chip in for eagle on the 12th, followed by a chip in out of the sand for birdie on the 13th.
"That was fun," said Koch. "It doesn't happen often, especially two in a row like that."
Second-year Tour member AJ Eathorne stands tied with first-round leader Rachel Hetherington at 211 (-5). Jill McGill is alone at four-under-par.