Tseng on verge of significant milestones

Two weeks ago Taiwanese golfer Yani Tseng arrived on Australian shores as the World Number five. In all probability she will leave Australia on Monday for Thailand and the opening LPGA Tour event of the year as the female games' leading ranked player.

Tseng began this week's ANZ RACV Ladies Masters as the favourite to win this time honoured event in Australian Women's golf for the very first time and in today's third round she cemented that favouritism. The 22 year old raced past the 36 hole leaders, Australian Kristie Smith and American Stacy Lewis, with a stunning round of 63 and established a three shot margin over Lewis leading into tomorrow's final round.

Starting round three one shot behind the leaders, Tseng quickly served notice that this would be her day when she birdied the opening three holes to create a one shot lead over Lewis. Although the 25 year old American drew level when she birdied the 6th, Tseng birdied the 9th and she was hardly seen for dust for the remainder of the round.

Tseng birdied the 10th, 12th, 13th and 15th to break four shots clear and although Lewis birdied the 15th and 16th Tseng responded with yet another birdie at the 17th and headed into the final hole with that four shot lead reinstated. Lewis would have one last say however when she hit a delightful approach to the last and holed from 10 feet for one final birdie and the margin was three.

"I feel very excited," said Tseng after her round. "My putting was much better than yesterday. I changed something this morning by standing closer to the ball and being more directly over the ball.
"It feels like last week really and tomorrow I am just going to go out and enjoy myself and the crowd."

The world ranking situation was raised. "I wasn't sure about that as earlier in the week it was not clear if that was the case but I am now. It will be a dream come true for me but I want to make sure if I get to number one that I stay there longer than one week."

There is little doubt that Tseng has that ability. Tomorrow might well start a lengthy reign at the top of the female game for the 22 year old.

Intriguingly, if Lewis was able to upset the favourite tomorrow she would become the first ever American to win this event at RACV Royal Pines. Another American, Jane Geddes, won the first two years the event was staged although both those tournaments were played at Royal Pines.

"I felt like I got lapped a little bit," said Lewis after her round referring to her playing partner's heroics. "She (Tseng) played an amazing round of golf today and you just have to take your hat off and tell her "“good job.

"I was struggling with my swing in the middle of the round and kind of losing some shots left but I think I might have found something on the last hole and that birdie was key," she added referring to the fact that the birdie kept her within striking distance. "She (Tseng) is playing great but I have played with her a lot and I can hang with her. I don't see her shooting worse than four or five under so I am going to have to go low if I am to have a chance."

Playing in the group ahead, another American, Ryan O'Toole, birdied her final two holes to move to 15 under and she will head into tomorrow' final round in outright third position. O'Toole turned 24 yesterday and celebrated in style with a round of 66 and today added a 67 to be within five of Tseng.

South African Ashleigh Simon birdied three of her last four holes to move to 14 under and lies in fourth position. A precocious talent earlier in amateur career and the youngest winner of the South African Open, the 21 year is now beginning to fulfill some of that promise. At the age of 14 Simon represented South Africa at the World Amateur Championship and a year later became the youngest player to win the Ladies South African Open.

The seven time winner of the event Karrie Webb put together a tidy round of 68 but it hardly made any difference in her position in the tournament. "It was a little better than yesterday but still up and down and inconsistent. I guess four under is a decent score but probably not good enough to be close tomorrow. I would probably need a 61 tomorrow (referring to her final round last year) as I would say 17 or 18 under would be leading by the end of the day today. As it turned out 20 under is leading and Webb is 9 behind.

Tseng however could well be on the verge of golfing greatness and tomorrow she seems likely to take a further step in that direction.

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