IRVING, Texas — Stacy Lewis, who is seeking to break an LPGA victory drought, got some words of wisdom Saturday.
“Make some putts,” said young Cole Wysocki, Lewis’ 3-year-old nephew.
Lewis, who was holding the youngster, whispered the response into his ear.
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If victory once again slips through the hands of Lewis, it might be because of what didn’t happen on Saturday at the North Texas LPGA Shootout.
The world’s third-ranked player hit every green on the course in regulation, but missed a number of makeable birdie putts that set her teeth on edge during a round under perfect conditions at Las Colinas Country Club.
Yet, after all the scorecards were accounted for, she was in the clubhouse with a third-round 2-under 69 and the tournament’s co-leader after 54 holes at 9 under.
Sharing the top of a crowded leaderboard was second-round leader Meena Lee, who also had some trouble with the putter.
Twelve players enter Sunday’s final round three shots within the leaders, including
Suzann Pettersen, the world’s fourth-ranked player who sat at 8 under with Dori Carter and Julieta Granada.
Lurking was top-ranked Inbee Park, the defending champion here who was four strokes back at 5 under.
Five of Lewis eight career victories have come when she has had the lead or a share of it heading into the final round.
“It was very frustrating,” said Lewis, 29. “I gave myself a lot of good looks at birdie. I couldn’t get a putt to go in. The encouraging thing is I’m hitting the ball great … and even with all the missed shots, I’m tied for the lead and have a chance.”
The Woodlands, Texas, native completed her round in 34 putts, eight more than in her 7-under second round on Friday.
Lewis recorded three birdies and one bogey, on No. 9, but she wasn’t alone. The 415-yard, par-4 played the most difficult on Saturday. Only five recorded birdie, while 21 had bogey or worse.
That stroke was retrieved with a birdie on the par-5 10. Another at 12 had her at 9 under.
Lewis appeared poised to take a lead into the final round after reaching the par-5 18 in two, but a 12-footer for birdie slid by.
Lewis, an eight-time LPGA winner who has earned more than $6.5 million in her career, fell just short last week at the Swinging Skirts Classic. Lewis has seven top-10 finishes in eight starts this season and six runner-up finishes since winning the Women’s British Open in August.
She said she won’t change her approach or be bothered with the traffic jam behind her and Lee today.
“You got to play this golf course,” Lewis said. “There’s a couple of tee shots that are pretty goofy, really, on this golf course, so as tricky as this golf course is, you have to be a little conservative.
“But then there’s some holes that if you got a wedge into a green, you can be pretty aggressive. So it’s really sticking to the same game plan.”
The leader most of the day was Lee, who surrendered a one-shot lead with her second bogey of the day at 14. She went without a birdie on the back.
Lee is seeking her first victory since 2006. Triumph would be her third career.
“It’s been awhile,” Lee said. “I’m very excited and kind of nervous, but I’m definitely enjoying the moment. I didn’t really take advantage of a lot of birdie chances, so I want to make more birdies tomorrow and see how it goes.”
Pettersen put herself in the mix with a 3-under 68, though, she, too, left some strokes on the course on a four-birdie round.
The 33-year-old Norwegian, like Lewis, is seeking her first victory in 2014, though she has been in the hunt over the past year.
“Experience is good to have every now and again,” said Pettersen, a 14-time winner on tour, “but, I mean, tomorrow is a new day, it’s a new year, and the course is a little different. So I just got to go out with a fresh mindset.”
There was a crowd at 7 under — seven in all — including Jennifer Johnson, who jumped 22 places with the low round of the day, 7-under 65, and Natalie Gulbis. Gulbis fell back three places after an even-par 71 day.
Sunday’s final round should be interesting.
Conditions are expected to worsen with the re-emergence of wind gusts forecast for 25-30 mph. Those are conditions that Lewis likes.
“I think when it’s windy … there’s a few more birdie opportunities just because some holes play shorter,” Lewis said. “But in general, usually it’s harder. You gotta shape some shots, you know, you have cross winds, things like that.
“And I love that. I mean I’d rather play in the wind than like today.