Aussies Green, Kim share lead at LPGA LA Championship

LOS ANGELES: Defending champion Hannah Green fired a one-under par 70 as the leaders struggled and joined fellow Australian Grace Kim atop the field after Saturday's third round of the LPGA Los Angeles Championship.

Green finished on seven-under 206 after 54 holes at Wilshire Country Club to share the lead with Kim, who stumbled to a birdie-less 76 to squander a four-stroke 36-hole lead.

"It actually wasn't that windy. It just got a little but bumpy toward the end," Green said of the woes of the late starters.

"I didn't have many full swings in today. I had a lot of hard shorts into the greens firming up and getting bouncy, kind of made it hard to completely trust that shot."

Lurking one stroke adrift on 207 were South Korean Im Jin-hee, Sweden's Maja Stark and Germany's Esther Henseleit.

South Korean rookie Im fired a morning 63, setting the 18-hole tournament scoring record at Wilshire to leap into contention.

"I'm really happy to get the new course record," Im said. "I played really good today."

Japan's Nasa Hataoka nearly matched Im's 63 but a bogey at the par-3 18th left her with a round of 64 to stand sixth on 208.

Im, ranked 42nd, made nine birdies against a lone bogey and reached 16 of 18 greens in regulation. Im, 25, was eighth in last week's Chevron Championship for her first LPGA top-10 finish.

"When I started the LPGA this year, the start of a few tournaments weren't going (as) I thought," Im said. "Now it's all right. I don't know when it is but I feel like I can win a tournament pretty soon."

She'll have to catch Green, who birdied the par-5 second hole only to falter with bogeys at the fifth, sixth and ninth.

Green answered with an eagle at the par-5 13th and birdies at 14 and 16 but missed a short par putt to bogey 17 and parred the par-3 18th.

"I typically hit a lot of fairways and remember putts and how to play around the greens," Green said. "I just feel very comfortable."

She struggled to find just the right positions on the greens, though.

"A lot of low scores this morning. If you get the putter hot it's doable," she said. "If you give yourself many opportunities uphill you can be aggressive. Had a lot of downhill putts today so almost had to lag them down."

Green seeks her fifth LPGA crown and second of the year after capturing the HSBC Women's World Championship at Singapore last month.

Kim, ranked 83rd, was on 12-under with a four-stroke lead over Stark when the round began, but made a double bogey at the par-3 fourth and three other bogeys to stagger back.

Kim is chasing a second LPGA title after winning the Lotte Championship last April.--AFP

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