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McPherson keeps her cool to grab 1-shot lead

AMERICAN Kristy McPherson, boosted by three consecutive birdies from the 10th, held her nerve to snatch a one-shot lead after Saturday's third round of the Kraft Nabisco Championship in Rancho Mirage, California.

On a difficult day for scoring at a sun-baked Mission Hills Country Club, the 27-year-old upstaged some of the biggest names in the game in the season's first major with a 2-under-par 70.

Hunting her first LPGA Tour title in her third year on the circuit, the pony-tailed McPherson just missed a 15-foot birdie putt at the par-5 last to post an 8-under total of 208. Former US Women's Open champion Cristie Kerr carded a matching 70 to lie second with first-round leader Brittany Lincicome (70) a further stroke back at 6-under.

Rock-hard greens and some tough pin positions provided a daunting challenge for approach shots and only 13 players broke par.

"I was kind of surprised that scores were not that low," McPherson said. "It's a tough leaderboard up there and I know that I have to play really solid golf tomorrow. You've got a lot of girls that can do a lot of good things out there. So I just want to go out there and try to keep it simple."

McPherson, tied for the overnight lead with Christina Kim, twice edged a stroke in front over the front nine before being caught by Kim and Kerr at 5-under.

However, she regained control with her sizzling birdie run from the 10th, knocking in a 4-footer at the par-4 12th to forge two ahead.

Kerr cut McPherson's lead to one with a tap-in birdie at the par-3 17th.

McPherson, who recorded six top-10 finishes on the 2008 LPGA Tour, coolly parred the last two holes to maintain her grip on the tournament.

Mexican world No. 1 Lorena Ochoa, eight strokes off the pace overnight, birdied the last for a 72 and a two-over total of 218. American teenager Michelle Wie was rooted at the bottom of the leaderboard after her second successive 81.

In Houston, American Bo Van Pelt took a 1-shot lead at the weather-hit Houston Open on Saturday before third-round play was suspended.

Van Pelt followed birdies at the second and fourth holes with two more at the par-3 seventh and par-5 eighth to stand 4-under for the day and 11-under total.

Knotted at 10-under were former champion Fred Couples, who had completed 10 holes, Briton Paul Casey and Americans Tommy Armour III and rookie Colt Knost, all through eight.

Only six of the 79 players who made the cut finished the third round.


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