Madelene Sagstrom, ranked 116th in the world rankings, followed her stunning round on Friday with a strong 5-under-par 67 on Saturday in maintaining her lead through three rounds at the Gainbridge LPGA at Boca Raton, Fla.
One day after dropping 11 birdies in a scorching 62 in the second round, the Swede stayed hot early with four birdies in the first eight holes. She remained steady throughout, finishing her bogey-free round with five birdies to rest at 15-under-par 201 for the tournament at Boca Rio Golf Club.
The three-time Symetra Tour winner is looking for her first career win on the LPGA Tour. She will carry a 54-hole lead for the first time in her young LPGA career.
"I was in this situation a few times on Symetra, and it's just to keep the same game plan," Sagstrom said of her strategy for Sunday. "Don't go out and change anything, just keep doing what you're doing, because you're obviously doing something right if you're on top of the leaderboard.
"So for me, that's just what I'm going to try to focus on, just trying to I mean, I was telling myself that this morning. It was like, I didn't play perfect yesterday, but I still shot 62. I didn't play perfect today and I still shot a 67. So it's not about being perfect, it's about having a lot of acceptance and just going out and do the best I can."
In her opening-round 72 on Thursday, Sagstrom bogeyed four times in 18 holes. Over the past two days, the 27-year-old has suffered just one bogey in 36 holes.
Carrying a one-shot advantage into Saturday's round, Sagstrom -- who played in college at LSU -- earned birdies on a pair of par-5s (first, eighth holes) and par-3s (No. 3, No. 6), finishing her front nine at 32 to push her to 14 under for the tourney. Her 1-under back nine, thanks to a birdie on the par-4 15th, kept her two strokes ahead of the pack entering Sunday.
Japan's Nasa Hataoka matched Sagstrom's 67 in ending the third round with a 13-under 203, notching six birdies on the day after recovering from a 6 on the par-five opening hole.
Hataoka sits one shot ahead of major champion Danielle Kang, who fired a bogey-free 65, and South Korea's Sei-Young Kim, who shot a 67, in a third-place tie at 12 under.
"I didn't miss any short putts which was helpful and have been hitting the ball pretty great," said Kang, a three-time winner on the LPGA Tour.
"Despite the weather, I think the golf course is playing differently every day and that is what's interesting about it. The rain helped out to make the greens more receptive, but it has definitely dried very quick and these Bermuda greens pick up pace throughout the day. I really like how they setup the golf course."
Kim said she plans to be aggressive in her bid to win the tournament.
"Greens are very soft, so I can attack the pin," Kim said. "So, yeah, which is meaning I have a lot of chance for birdie. So, yeah, it -- I can play very aggressive, especially in this golf course."
Celine Boutier of France ended a strong round of 67 with birdies on three of her final four holes, moving her to 11 under for the weekend.
Tying her for fifth place is Cydney Clanton, who rescued her day by ending with a four-birdie flourish on holes No. 15-18 for a 69 on the day.
Thailand's Moriya Jutanugarn shot her second straight 67 for a 10-under tournament score through three rounds, good for sixth place.
First-round leader Jessica Korda shot a 69 on Saturday, which leaves her among four others at 8-under, including China's Xiyu Lin (67), Klara Spilkova (68) of the Czech Republic, Canadian Brooke Henderson (68) and Jennifer Song (72).
This year's tournament marks the first official event in Boca Raton since the 1989 Oldsmobile LPGA Classic.
--Field Level Media