THAILAND’S Patty Tavatanakit opened a five-stroke lead on another hot and windy Saturday afternoon, but Filipina ace Yuka Saso tumbled with a 77 to crash out of contention at the ANA Inspiration in Rancho Mirage, California.
Tavatanakit all but crushed her challengers’ hopes with a striking combination of power and touch.
A stroke ahead after each of the first two rounds, the 21-year-old Thai shot a five-under 67 in 100-degree heat to reach 14-under 202 at Mission Hills in the first major championship of the year.
“I’m fine in the heat,” Tavatanakit said. “I grew up in this in Thailand.”
She matched the tournament 54-hole record set by Pernilla Lindberg in her 2018 victory. Dottie Pepper set the overall mark of 19 under in 1999.
Defending champion Mirim Lee and Ally Ewing were second at nine under in the event being played without spectators for the second time in seven months.
The 19-year-old Filipino-Japanese Saso fared miserably in the last five holes, failing to at least ride the momentum of sharing 12th spot entering the third round at four-under par.
Saso had a shot at three-under after 13 holes but a double-bogey at the par-threre 14th and bogeys at the 15th and 17th marred her round.
With that 40 on the backside, Saso dropped to 53rd place at one-over 253 with one round to go in her Ladies Professional Golf Association Tour debut this season.
The other Filipino, Bianca Pagdanganan, failed to make the halfway cut.
Tavatanakit crushed drives—hitting a 337-yarder on the par-five 11th—and was equally as effective on and around the greens.
“I’ve hit it the farthest I’ve ever hit here,” Tavatanakit said. “It’s a little strange to have a lob wedge in on the first hole.”
The former UCLA star is trying to become the sixth straight international winner in the tournament celebrating its 50th edition. She won seven times in two seasons at UCLA and had three Symetra Tour victories in 2019.
“Keep on the pedal,” Tavatanakit said. “I play aggressive when I can be and you got to play smart golf. It’s a major championship. Pins are tough, tough conditions. You got to have the things you need to go out and execute and embrace all the challenges.”
She birdied the first three holes, holing a 20-footer on the par-4 third.