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4 move to forefront entering final round at Kapalua LPGA


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POSTED: Sunday, October 19, 2008

KAPALUA, Maui » The leaderboard at the $1.5 million Kapalua LPGA Classic is so tightly bunched, you couldn't fit a gap wedge between first and fifth.

For much of yesterday afternoon, only two shots separated a dozen golfers at the top of the leaderboard as they tried to survive the wind-swept Bay Course at Kapalua. If they faltered in these trying conditions, there were another half-dozen waiting on the fringe to take their spot entering today's closing 18.

Four golfers enter today's final round tied for the lead at 5-under 211, with another four just one shot back and three more within two. Morgan Pressel made the biggest move with a 5-under 67 to share the lead with Carin Koch (68), Jee Young Lee (70) and second-round leader Brittany Lang (71), who missed a 10-footer for birdie at the last that would have given her the outright lead.

Only Suzann Pettersen, who shared the lead on Friday with Lang, managed to go 6 under for the tournament, but the mercurial Norwegian, well known for her temper, struggled down the stretch, exchanging harsh words with her caddie on a couple of occasions as she tried to control her shots and emotions in the wind.

She managed an even-par 72 to join Sun Young Yoo (71), Il Mi Chung (71) and Laura Diaz (71) at 4-under 212. But if Pettersen can keep it together, the 27-year-old has the kind of long game capable of winning in these blustery trades.

So does Pressel, who hasn't won a tournament since holding off Pettersen at the Kraft Nabisco Championship in 2007. The touring pro for Kapalua missed a 2-footer at the last for birdie to go 6 under and take the outright lead. But given the conditions, Pressel played a stellar round to put herself in position to win.

"Do we have to bring that up?" Pressel said when asked how long the putt was at 18. She chipped in for eagle at the par-5 15th from 15 yards out, but the idea that things even out on a golf course didn't sit well with Pressel. "No ( I didn't rush it), I just missed it. Nothing else to say about that."

Unlike Pressel, Koch was pleased with her round of 68. She hasn't won a tournament since 2005 and spent much of this year moving her family from Arizona back to her native Sweden. But now that they're all settled in, Koch would like nothing better than to end 2008 with a win.

"Today, most things went my way," Koch said. "It's going to be really fun. For me, I haven't been in this situation in a long time, so I'll try not to concentrate on anything but me and do what I can do out there and whatever everyone else does, I can't do too much about that."

Despite the blustery conditions, there were eight rounds in the 60s, including 67s by Pressel, Heather Young (3-under 213) and Laura Davies (2-under 214). Koch, Janice Moodie (2-under 214) and Linda Wessberg (1-under 215) shot 68s to put themselves within shouting distance of the leaders.

That's one reason Lang will enter the final round just trying to focus on her game. With so many talented golfers within five shots of the lead, she knows any one of them can get hot at the right time and steal the show.

As the Texan said on Friday, she's excited about being among the leaders. Because she was the last one in at 5 under, she will play in the next-to-last group with Chung and Diaz. Pressel, Koch and Lee are in the final threesome.

"I'll have the same mind-set to just try to be aggressive and relax out there," Lang said. "I think that I was really excited to be out there, and once I calmed down, I felt pretty comfortable."