SINGAPORE, March 4 (Reuters) - Michelle Wie moved into position to record her first victory in almost three years when the American maintained her rich vein of form with a third-round five-under-par 67 to open a two-shot lead at the HSBC Women’s Champions on Saturday.
Playing on a sponsor’s invite after slumping to 179th in the world rankings, Wie will start the final round on 14-under at the restricted-field event, a couple clear of top-ranked Lydia Ko, number two Ariya Jutanugarn and Korea’s Park Sung-hyun.
Defending champion Jang Ha-na is a further shot adrift on 11-under alongside 2015 winner and fellow Korean Park In-bee in a tie for fifth place after a lengthy weather delay had slowed down play at the New Tanjong Course in soggy Singapore.
Wie’s career has been in a tail-spin since she won the 2014 U.S. Open at Pinehurst but after overcoming injury, adopting a new putting stance and arriving in Singapore early to scout out the course, the 27-year-old has looked revitalised.
“It’s fun being in contention. I‘m going to go out with the same mindset that I had today and just go out and play as hard as I can,” Wie told reporters.
“There’s so many things I can’t control out there tomorrow. I‘m just going to go out there and have fun and try to play the way I played the last three days.”
The tall Hawaiian started her third round one shot off the lead but stormed clear of the field with four birdies on the opening eight holes and offset an ugly bogey on the par-three 15th with two more birdies coming in.
“That’s what I wake up and practise long hours for... is to be in this position and try to do my best in it,” added Wie, who has only managed one top-10 finish since her maiden major win.
New Zealander Ko made an equally fast start as she also signed for a 67 but she is well aware that with the top six separated by just three shots, she cannot afford any mistakes on Sunday.
“The girls are playing great and every time I look at the screen, somebody is making another putt,” the 19-year-old said.
“That’s what I’ve been trying to do the past few days, and that’s the mindset I’ve got to take on to tomorrow, because there are birdies out there. I just need to focus on my game.” (Reporting by John O‘Brien, editing by Ed Osmond)