Jenny Lidback, who holds dual citizenship in Peru and Sweden and speaks four languages, was remarkably fluent in reading greens and writing low numbers on her scorecard Saturday in the third round of the LPGA Championship at Bethesda Country Club.
With a 3-under-par round of 68 on a day when many of her closest competitors stalled or foundered, Lidback, a non-winner after five years on the LPGA Tour, gave herself a two-shot lead going into today's final round.
Playing with struggling second-round leader Cindy Rarick _ who opened bogey, bogey, double bogey _ Lidback, 30, took sole possession of the lead when she birdied the 400-yard third hole with a 6-foot putt and never played from behind the rest of the day, though she never knew it.
"I don't look at the leaderboard," she said. "I didn't have any idea where I stood until a reporter told me I had a two-shot lead. I said, "Wow.' "
Nor will she look again today, she insisted. "Not until I get to the 18th green. I'm out there trying to birdie every hole. "Well, I may look at it before I hit my second shot at 18."
Patty Sheehan and her playing partner, Cathy Johnston-Forbes, remained Lidback's closest pursuers. Both shot 70 and were at 7-under 206. Three strokes behind after shooting 69 was Barbara Bunkowsky.
Johnston-Forbes pulled off a small miracle of a par at the 18th hole to stay close to the leader. She put her drive into the right woods, and very nearly could have been penalized on her second shot when she knocked a tree limb down on her backswing.
But Johnston-Forbes had the presence of mind to keep swinging. Even though she only bumped her ball about 40 feet and it remained in the rough, she faded her 4-iron third shot around a tree and onto the green and made a tough 18-foot putt.
Most players at the local links probably would have stopped swinging in similar circumstances. But that's not allowed under the
rules of golf; technically, knocking down a tree limb improves the swing, an automatic two-stroke penalty.
Johnston-Forbes, who did not hit the limb on several practice swings, said she was aware of the rule. "It was a big clump of tree I hit, and it could have been a judgment call if I'd stopped. I stopped a little at the top, but rather than get a two-shot penalty, I went through my swing."
Sheehan, a Hall of Famer trying to win her third LPGA Championship, said she was looking forward to playing with Lidback, who has played in only four other events this season. Lidback's best finish on the tour is fifth.
Lidback's round was an exercise in calm and poise, and most of her long birdie putts were around the hole, inside two feet. Though she admitted she was nervous as she walked onto the first tee, her play hardly showed it, even when Rarick, her partner, began to blow up on her first three holes.
To Rarick's credit, she regrouped and got to 5 under.
"I was not having very good luck," Rarick said, still as upbeat as she was after leading after the first two rounds. "There's still a lot of golf left on this course. I'm not disappointed. I'm at five (under) and Jenny's at nine. Geez, on this golf course, I can make that up."
Other players were not quite so fortunate. Betsy King, who had the tournament's best round of 66 on Friday, shot 72 after bogeying the 18th hole and was six strokes back.
Michelle McGann, who got to 6 under with two holes left Saturday, double bogeyed the 17th and had to settle for a 68 that left her five strokes back.
Jenny Lidback 69-67-68_204
Patty Sheehan 68-68-70_206
Barb Bunkowsky 68-70-69_207
Patti Rizzo 72-69-67_208
Cindy Rarick 68-67-73_208
Lauri Merten 73-70-66_209
Michelle McGann 73-68-68_209
Tammie Green 71-69-69_209
Maggie Will 70-68-71_209