World No 1 Ariya Jutanugarn looked set to retain her lead at the Blue Bay LPGA in China on Saturday – until some last-minute fireworks from Gaby Lopez.
Lopez, who joined the LPGA Tour in 2016 and is still searching for her first win, trailed Jutanugarn by three shots with two holes to play in Hainan Island before a stunning hole-in-one at the 17th and a closing birdie at the par-5 18th saw her finish with a one-shot lead at nine under par.
Her six-under-par 66 was the low round of the week at the challenging Jian Lake Blue Bay Golf Course, an amazing effort.
Jutanugarn looked set to at least retain a share of the lead before bogeying the 18th for a 71 to complete the dramatic turnaround.
Lopez now finds herself in pole position ahead of Sunday’s final round, albeit with lots of work left to do in order to clinch her maiden LPGA victory.
Jutanugarn continued to look pretty solid on Saturday, picking up two birdies and an eagle, but three bogeys limited her gains. The Thai star will certainly fancy her chances of forcing a positive result come Sunday.
The tournament looks to be a two-horse race at this stage, with South Korean duo Sung Hyun Park and Sei Young Kim the nearest challengers at four under par, five shots off the lead and four behind Jutanugarn – although the chasing pack will certainly come into play if the top two both capitulate.
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