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Golf: Lexi Thompson takes the ANA Inspiration lead by playing 28 holes Saturday

One day after Lexi Thompson couldn’t even tee off until shortly before sunset, she had to get back to the Dinah Shore Course in Rancho Mirage before dawn to start a 28-hole day.

Thompson is excelling under unusual conditions at the ANA Inspiration, and it has put her in prime position to play for her second major title.

Thompson claimed the tournament lead while completing her wind-delayed second round Saturday before moving two shots ahead of Norway’s Suzann Pettersen with a third-round 67. After an extra-long day of play in wind and sun, Thompson is at 13-under 203 heading into Sunday’s final round.

“I struggled a little bit off the tee and had a few more rough shots than I wanted, but you can’t ever complain about a five-under round,” Thompson said.

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The 22-year-old Thompson’s victory here in 2014 is her only previous major victory, but the U.S. Olympian simply excels at Mission Hills Country Club. She smashed her drives and got great results from her inconsistent putter on the way to six birdies in the third round, keeping a competitive field squarely behind her.

“I just love this golf course,” Thompson said. “I get to hit a lot of drivers, and it just sets up nicely for me all over.”

Thompson and Pettersen stayed ahead of a field posting unusually low scores, with the two-over 146 cut matching the lowest cut score in tournament history.

They did it despite intermittent returns of the desert wind that called an early halt to Thursday’s play and forced two days of catchup, forcing 56 golfers to complete their second rounds on Saturday morning. The field got all caught up on a postcard-perfect desert Saturday, and warm weather is expected Sunday.

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“It’s definitely not a usual week, what we’re used to, but it’s a major week,” Thompson said. “We have to deal with the wind conditions and whatever weather we get.”

Pettersen shot a third-round 68 to reach 11 under, while Australia’s Minjee Lee joined a South Korean trio — Inbee Park, So Yeon Ryu and Mi Jung Hur — at 10-under 206. Michelle Wie, Cristie Kerr, world No. 2 Ariya Jutanugarn and France’s Karine Icher are five shots behind Thompson at eight under.

“I think I’ve always said since the first time I saw this place, it really fits my eye,” said Pettersen, a two-time major champion.

“I’m driving the ball well, and that’s a major key on this golf course. I’ve got a big job to do (Sunday). The leaderboard is packed behind me as well. You’ve got to expect to go out there and shoot low. There’s a lot at stake, but I’m all in for it.”

World No. 1 and defending ANA Inspiration champion Lydia Ko shot a 71 to move to a steady five-under 211. Lucy Li, the 14-year-old prodigy who qualified last week, was the only amateur to make the cut with a one-over 145. She played her first two rounds alongside Wie. Li is seven over after a third-round 78.

Kang has three-shot lead at Houston Open

Sung Kang shot a one-under 71 to hold a three-shot lead over Rickie Fowler after the third round of the Houston Open.

After shooting a tournament course record nine-under 63 on Friday, Kang took a commanding six-shot lead with a 36-hole tournament record of 129 through two rounds. However, on Saturday, it was Fowler’s day to chase history, shooting a five-under 67 to trim Kang’s lead as they head into the final round.

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After Thursday’s eight-under 64, Fowler held a one-shot lead over Kang after the first round, but slipped to fourth on Friday with a 71. He returned to form on Saturday and has a PGA Tour career-best 22 birdies through three rounds.

Behind Kang and Fowler at 17-under 199 and 14-under 202 through three rounds, respectively, Russell Henley is at 13-under 203 and Luke List is at 12-under 204. No one else is within eight shots of Kang.

Sauers takes lead in Mississippi with a 63

Gene Sauers shot a nine-under 63 to take a one-shot lead after the second round of the Mississippi Gulf Resort Classic in Biloxi.

The 54-year-old Sauers started the day three shots behind leader Joe Durant at Fallen Oak, but moved up the leaderboard with five birdies and an eagle on the front nine. He made bogey on No. 10, but recovered with three birdies over the final eight holes. He’s at 12 under for the tournament.

Defending tournament champion Miguel Angel Jimenez shot a 66 and is alone in second place, one shot behind Sauers. Glen Day (67) and Durant (69) are both three shots off the lead. John Daly was in contention after shooting a 69 on Friday, but faded with a one-over 73 on Saturday.


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