Laura Davies admitted her surprise at shooting a three-under-par 69, which strengthened her position at the top of the leaderboard after the third round of the Rochester International.
"I was thinking that I would play horrible today and not play as well as it turned out," Davies said. "But now I have a very good lead and I think I can win now." Davies is 11 under on 205, with a five-shot lead over Maria Hjorth of Sweden and the American Brandie Burton and, more importantly, some confidence. "I am not thinking: 'Don't blow it,' " she said. "But I am thinking about winning."
Burton said there was a reason for Davies' negativity. "It's called reverse psychology," she said. "She's always been a little bit negative, maybe not as much as what I've read in the paper the last few days. She played very solid out there today." Davies spaced her birdies over the third, eighth and 17th holes and over the last two days at the Locust Hill Country Club is eight under after 34 bogey-free holes.
Going into yesterday's final round, the 37-year-old was one round from her 20th career title. History was on her side, since the only significant lead she has relinquished was years ago in Springfield. "I lost a four-shot lead and shot 78 that day on the easiest course on tour," she said. "That was really the only time that I really blew a big lead, but tomorrow I just want to make it bigger."
Davies is also playing in a field that is without the two best players on the US LPGA Tour, Annika Sorenstam and Karrie Webb. "You know, what is their loss is my gain," Davies said. "But there are really great players here that I have to beat and there has been some good scoring out there this week." Scores have not been low at all. Of the 73 players to make the cut, only eight have shot as low as 68, and Davies has done it twice.
Fighting a cold, Hjorth had consecutive bogeys on the front nine but still managed a 69 to remain five shots behind Davies. She played the last 12 holes in four under. "I was driving the ball better than yesterday and the first day and that is really the key to this course," she said.
Burton was a stroke behind Davies entering the day but slumped to a 71 that included four bogeys on the back nine. She was the joint leader after making a five-foot birdie putt at the seventh. But she bogeyed the 10th, 12th, 14th and 17th with a series of bad drives and missed putts. "The back side just kind of snuck up on me, I guess," she said.