Hotshot Korda vaults into LPGA Australian Open lead

American Nelly Korda. (AFP pic)

ADELAIDE: Red-hot American Nelly Korda vaulted into a three shot lead at the LPGA Tour-sanctioned Australian Open Saturday as she reinforced her credentials as the form player of recent months.

Ranked 16 in the world, the 20-year-old headed to Adelaide’s Grange Golf Club on the back of a win and two other top three finishes in her last four events.

The victory — her first — came at the Taiwan Championship last October, before a second place at the Tour Championship in Florida.

She started her 2019 campaign in a similar vein, finishing third at the Tournament of Champions last month, also in Florida.

The composed Korda sunk five birdies on the back nine in Adelaide, including at the 18th, to card a 67 and be 12-under for the tournament.

She takes a handy cushion into the final day ahead of Japan’s Naru Nomura, whose round was marred by a bogey on the 16th as she chased the American.

A group of three including joint overnight leader Hsu Wei-ling of Taiwan, England’s Jodi Ewart Shadoff, and South Korea’s Lee Jeong-eun, who surged up the leaderboard with a 67, are a shot further back.

“Great finish, hopefully I can keep the momentum up tomorrow,” said Korda.

“I’m hitting it really well. I struggled a bit with the putting on the front nine, but kind of got it going on the back nine.”

Asked what the key would be for Sunday, she replied: “Just consistency. I know everyone is going to try to catch up so I just need to hit as many fairways and greens as possible.”

Thailand’s world number one Ariya Jutanugarn struggled with a 72, leaving her 13 behind Korda.