Kris Monaghan finally is alone at the top.
Monaghan, after shooting a three-under-par 69 Saturday at the Stardust Country Club, goes into the final round of the $425,000 Kyocera Inamori Classic with a one-shot lead over perennial challenger Patty Sheehan.
After sinking a six-foot birdie putt on the 18th hole, Monaghan posted a 54-hole total of 204. She felt the omens were still in place for the second LPGA tour championship in her nine-year career, but acknowledges the competition will be fierce.
Besides Sheehan, who has won 30 tournaments and has her sights set on winning the money title, there are two other major threats. One shot behind Sheehan, who shot a 70 for 205, are Donna Andrews, the first-round co-leader with Monaghan, and Juli Inkster. Andrews, nursing an aching back, had a four-under 68 and Inkster a 69.
After a 66 opening round, Andrews’ back hurt Friday, and she faded while Canadian Gail Graham shot a 68 to corral Monaghan after 36 holes at 135.
Saturday it was Graham, the only non-winner among the contenders, who faltered. She bogeyed four of the first six holes and dropped from the leader board. She staggered in with a 77 and, this being the final event she’ll play this season, she’ll have to wait until next year.
It figured that Sheehan might take over the tournament, but when the newest Hall of Famer bogeyed the seventh and eighth holes, Monaghan shot to the front.
“I like the idea of being in front,” Monaghan said. “They have to catch me. That’s what it’s all about. I’m sure I’ll be a little nervous (today), but I keep getting closer to winning again.
“I am at the top of my game right now. I have learned patience finally and that should help me.
“I was in the last group last week at Seattle and thought I had a great chance. But Brandie (Burton) went wild and I lost another chance.
“Playing with Juli in all three rounds has helped us both. We have fed on each other’s birdies. I would have liked to play with her again, because we are old friends. But they are sending out twosomes, and it will benefit me to play with Patty.”
Sheehan was not happy with her play, though she birdied three of the last six holes to move back into contention.
“I didn’t hit the ball as well all day,” she said. “But I sank some putts coming in. I’ll give it my best tomorrow, and we’ll see what happens. There’s added incentive with the money and a shot at player of the year.”
Probably the surprise contender is Andrews. She almost withdrew Friday when she re-injured her back. She was playing her 16th hole, the Stardust’s seventh, and was two under for the day and eight under for the tournament.
“But I buried a shot in the sand trap,” Andrews said. “All tournament I had avoided over swinging. This time I had to blast out. A pain shot down my leg, I double-bogeyed and barely lasted the round. With more treatment and no difficult swings, I feel fine now.”
As seems to be the case on this course, the best scores came in the morning, despite the fog. Before the winds came up, Pat Bradley, who barely made the 146 cut, teed off in the second group and shot a six-under-par 66. A short time later young Belgian star, Florence Descampe, also had a 66, with eight birdies and two bogeys.