Thailand’s Atthaya Thitikul grabbed a one-stroke lead after the third round at the BMW Ladies Championship in South Korea on Saturday.
Thitikul fired a five under 67 to reach 15 under par after three rounds in Wonju, the lone LPGA stop in South Korea this year.
On the par-72 course, the 19-year-old rookie recorded six birdies and one bogey.
Thitikul will be vying for her third title in 2022, with two other Korean-descent players, Andrea Lee of the United States and Lydia Ko of New Zealand, lying one stroke behind.
Ko Jin-young, South Korea’s defending champion and world No 1, withdrew before the third round began, after having a disastrous first two rounds.
She shot 80-79 on Thursday and Friday, having just returned from two months out with a wrist injury.
With a victory this week, Thitikul could replace Ko at the top of the world rankings.
But the Thai golfer said rankings were not her foremost focus.
“To be honest, I don’t really care about the ranking,” she said. “I play golf because I want to take care of my family. Ranking is not that important for me.”
Lilia Vu of the United States is alone in fourth place at 13 under, followed by two South Koreans, Kim Hyo-joo and Choi Hye-jin. Both Kim and Choi shot 66s at 12 under.
South Africa’s Paulo Reto is on four under (T29) with Ashleigh Buhai struggling on five over (T69).
The BMW Ladies Championship has a purse of $2-million.
© Agence France-Presse