Hjorth clings to lead in Tournament of Champions

Maria Hjorth maintained her three-shot lead in the LPGA Tournament of Champions despite following a record-setting 64 with an even-par 72 on Saturday in Mobile, Alabama.

Maria Hjorth maintained her three-shot lead in the LPGA Tournament of Champions despite following a record-setting 64 with an even-par 72 on Saturday in Mobile, Alabama.

Hjorth, who was the last player to qualify for the tournament when she won the Safeco Classic on 19 September, was at 9-under 207 after three rounds at the Magnolia Grove Crossings course.

Three strokes back are first-round leader Karrie Webb, Laura Davies, Chris Johnson and Cindy Figg-Currier. Figg-Currier has been in second place since the first round.

Hjorth, a native of Sweden who shot a tournament - and course-record 8-under round on Friday, was as low as 11 under at the turn after birdies on the fourth and seventh holes 4. But three bogeys and only one birdie on the back nine kept her from extending her lead.

"When I had three bogeys and dropped three shots, I looked at the leaderboard and saw that behind me they weren't moving too much," Hjorth said. "I didn't play well today, and the ball wasn't as close to the hole as it had been. But there's always going to be one day out of the four when you struggle."

Playing together, Webb and Davies each shot a 70 and were at 210. Figg-Currier was in the final pairing with Hjorth, and matched her 72. Johnson moved within three shots with a 69, while Sweden's Helen Alfredsson made the biggest move with a 67 that put her at 211.

Davies, coming off a win in Japan last week at the Takara World Invitational, had six birdies and four bogeys. "I've got to go out and shoot low tomorrow," she said. "But it's really up to Maria. If she gives us a chance, we're all going to try to go low and win it. But I'd like to be in her position, with a three-shot lead and playing well."

Webb ballooned from an opening-round 66 to a 74 on Friday, but Saturday's 70 kept her in contention for her tour-leading seventh title of the season.

The tournament, is a no-cut event featuring only winners of LPGA events over the last three years and active members of the LPGA Hall of Fame. The winner receives dlrs 122,000 from a total purse of dlrs 750,000.

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