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Pornanong takes 3-shot lead at LPGA Malaysia

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP) — Thailand’s Pornanong Phatlum had six birdies on the front nine en route to a 6-under 65 Saturday and a three-shot lead after the third round of the LPGA Malaysia tournament.

Pornanong closed in on her first LPGA victory, moving to 14-under 199 at Kuala Lumpur Golf and Country Club.

Japan’s Ayako Uehara had three consecutive birdies from the 12th hole in a round of 69 to sit alone in second place. Four players were tied for third another stroke back, including second-round leader So Hyeon Ryu, who had double bogeys at the 17th and 18th to give up her lead.

Her South Korean compatriot Chella Choi also was at 10 under after a 68, which included a quadruple bogey 8 at the 14th hole. They were joined by China’s Shanshan Feng (69) and 17-year-old New Zealander Lydia Ko (70), who can take over the No. 1 ranking if she wins on Sunday and top-ranked Stacy Lewis finishes tied for 12th or worse.

Lewis, the first-round leader after a 65, had a 72 to tie for 20th at 5 under. She had a double bogey at the par-3 seventh, where she also dropped a shot in the second round.

Defending champion Lexi Thompson had an eagle on the sixth hole and finished with a 69, trailing the leader by 14 shots. She shot 71-73 the first two days of the tournament.

Thompson, who won by four strokes last year, said “I definitely haven’t played up to my standards,” but added “the course is in amazing shape.”

Pornanong made the turn in 29 — the first time she’s shot under 30 at the midpoint of a round — but had a more routine back nine with two birdies and two bogeys.

“The front nine was amazing,” she said. “Like I make everything. Back nine I just feel a little bit nervous.”

Ariya Jutanugarn of Thailand had the best round of the day with a 64, which included nine birdies. She was five shots off the lead as she chases an LPGA Tour card for next season. Ariya and Pornanong are aiming to become the first Thai player to win on the tour.

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