Delacour leads LPGA Kingsmill Championship after third round

Dave Fairbank
Contact Reporterdfairbank@dailypress.com
Delacour has 1-shot lead over rookie Alison Lee in #KingsmillLPGA

JAMES CITY — Perrine Delacour surged late while Alison Lee again faded, and the LPGA Kingsmill Championship has an unlikely leader heading into the final round.

Delacour, a 21-year-old native of France ranked 321st in the world, shot 4-under 67 Saturday at Kingsmill's River Course and sits at 11-under 202. She enters Sunday with a one-shot lead over Lee, the Tour rookie from California, with a handful of elite challengers just behind.

"I think (Sunday) I will be nervous because that's the first time in the lead," said Delacour, whose English is spotty and heavily accented. "So I'm going to be nervous, but I'll try to do my best and we'll see after 18 holes."

Among those chasing Delacour are major winners Paula Creamer, Lexi Thompson, former Kingsmill champ Suzann Pettersen, Hyo-Joo Kim and So Yeon Ryu.

Creamer, the fan favorite who lost an epic playoff here in 2012, is among a threesome two shots back at 9-under 204 after she putted and scrambled to a 5-under 66. Ryu, ranked No. 8 in the world, shot a bogey-free 68 and is also at 9-under, along with rookie Minjee Lee.

Thompson is at 8-under 205 after a 67 on Saturday. Kim, the world's fifth-ranked player, also shot 4-under 67 and is among a group with Pettersen, Angela Stanford and Jing Yan at 7-under 206.

Delacour's closest challenger, Alison Lee, appeared in control until the closing holes. She led by as many as four shots, but gave away the lead with a bogey at No. 16 and a four-putt double-bogey at the 17th hole.

"Overall, I'm happy with how I played," Lee said. "I just had a couple bad holes on 16 and 17."

Meanwhile, Delacour birdied three of the last five holes, capping her day with a great approach to within 4 feet on No. 18 and slamming home the putt.

"I made a perfect birdie," Delacour said.

Delacour missed the cut in six of her first seven tournaments this year and made just $17,000 so far. She had not strung together back-to-back rounds in the 60s in two-plus years on Tour, yet carded 67-68-67 in three days at Kingsmill.

"Even after 18, I said, 'Oh no, I'm not in the lead' because I know Alison Lee was … 13-under after 16," Delacour said.

Lee admitted after Friday's round that she lost focus on the back nine due to fatigue, but on Saturday the lapse cost her. She was especially miffed about the 17th hole, where she chose to putt from the fringe.

"That was a huge mistake," she said. "That first putt, I didn't think I'd leave it that short. The second putt, I thought it would break right-to-left and I hit a really firm stroke, felt confident and ended up breaking to the right, and I had a poor putt coming back."

If Lee was discouraged, she didn't show it after her round. She chatted amiably with fans and posed for photos.

"I've had plenty of bad rounds," she said. "I don't want to waste my energy and pout about it."

Creamer was pleased with her round, though for different reasons.

"I actually didn't hit the ball very well at all," she said. "As you can see, I have hardly any greens hit today. But that's why you have to have a good short game and you've got to be able to bail yourself out at times. My putter was hot and I gave myself some really good looks for par, even though I had to save them. It was a crazy back nine, that's for sure."

Creamer eagled the par-5 third hole and played the par-5s in 4-under. She reached 8-under after a birdie on No. 15 to climb into a tie for third. After a sweet up-and-down and long putt at 16, she hit it pin-high on the 17th hole and sank a 15-foot putt from the right fringe for birdie to get to 9-under.

"I was making some great putts, I mean just great saves, good up-and-downs," she said. "I was definitely not in the best of places. I lost my feel with my irons. I'll be going to the driving range, that's for sure. But it happens, and you have to be able to have a good short game to bail you out."

Creamer has won 10 tournaments in her career, but has only one top-10 finish this year, a tie for 10th place at the Kia Classic. She likes her position heading into Sunday.

"I'll take it, for sure," she said. "I mean, my goodness gracious, you want to have an opportunity to win. Playing in the final group or the last two groups, that's always fun. It's good to have my game where I want it to be, and I have a lot of confidence, even though you've got to go work on some things."

Delacour, on the other hand, is in uncharted territory, playing in the final group and aiming for her first title. How might she calm herself Sunday?

"Just breathe and not thinking about (the) lead and everything," she said. "Just try to do my best and be in the present."

Fairbank can be reached by phone at 757-247-4637.

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