Sjodin pulls even with Tseng at Kraft Nabisco

GREG BEACHAM AP Sports Writer Published:

RANCHO MIRAGE, Calif. (AP) -- Sweden's Karin Sjodin shot a steady 4-under 68 through heavy wind while chasing down top-ranked Yani Tseng on Saturday, pulling even at 9 under heading into the final round of the Kraft Nabisco Championship.

The dominant Tseng proved she's not unbeatable, showing visible frustration while posting a 71 as inconsistent as the wind that buffeted Mission Hills throughout her round.

While Tseng is a five-time major champion, the long-hitting Sjodin has never won in seven seasons on the LPGA Tour. Yet Sjodin made just one bogey in a remarkable round, briefly taking the outright lead down the stretch of the tour's first major of the year.

"The day was just kind of smooth," said Sjodin, who kept playing despite apparently dislocating one of her ribs Friday. "I never felt like I was ever in trouble. ... It feels great to be there. I don't know if I've really had time to think about it much. It's going to be fun tomorrow, definitely."

Haeji Kang, who also has never won on the LPGA Tour, was two strokes back after struggling to a 72. She will join Tseng and Sjodin in the final group Sunday. World No. 2 Na Yeon Choi was among five players at 6 under.

Sjodin is among the few LPGA Tour pros who can compete with Tseng off the tee, but the Oklahoma State alumnus is ranked 216th. Sjodin first played the Kraft Nabisco on an exemption in 2005 while still in college, but had never made the cut until this weekend, when she will play in a final group for the first time in her LPGA Tour career.

Sjodin hasn't yet reached the enormous potential suggested by her driving abilities, but the 28-year-old smiled throughout her third round after beginning the day three strokes back. Sjodin has never finished higher than 19th in her 18 majors, and has only four top-10 finishes in her career.

For three rounds, Sjodin has matched Tseng, who has won the last two tournaments and three of five so far this season, leading 10 of the last 11 rounds on the LPGA Tour. The 23-year-old Tseng is shooting to become the youngest six-time major winner in golf history, even three years younger than Tiger Woods.

But Tseng knew she might be in trouble when serious wind hit the Dinah Shore tournament course right about when Tseng and Kang teed off in the final twosome of the day.

"For the front nine, I played very solid, especially in this wind," said Tseng, who also has plenty of experience in bad-weather golf growing up in Taiwan. "I don't think it was as tough as I thought, so maybe I was prepared for this. But on the back nine, I got kind of emotional, maybe thinking too much, trying too hard to play better."

Tseng dropped back to 9 under with a bogey on the seventh hole, and Sjodin briefly grabbed a share of the lead with a birdie putt on the 11th before Tseng birdied the 10th.

But Tseng was put on the clock on the next hole, and she bogeyed the 11th with a poor tee shot. She then missed a 2-foot par putt on the 13th hole, staring at her ball blankly after it toured the rim of the cup before popping back out.

She fell back to 8 under and a tie with Sjodin, but reclaimed the lead with a birdie putt on the next hole.

"I'm glad this happened today instead of tomorrow," Tseng said. "I was just thinking too much and trying too hard. It's good to find out earlier."

Sjodin pulled back into the lead with a birdie putt on the 16th while Tseng bogeyed the 15th after a poor shot out of a bunker. Tseng pulled even with Sjodin yet again with a birdie on the par-3 17th with a beautiful 6-iron shot.