Ocala, FL (SportsNetwork.com) - Lydia Ko fired a 7-under 65 in Friday's third round to move one stroke clear of Ha Na Jang at the season-opening Coates Golf Championship.
Ko ended 54 holes at 14-under-par 202. She picked up three of her five LPGA Tour titles last year, and with a win on Saturday will become the youngest player ever, male or female, to reach No. 1 in the world rankings.
Jang, the second-round leader, managed a 1-under 71 at Golden Ocala Golf and Equestrian Club and is alone in second place at minus-13. Na Yeon Choi carded a 6-under 66 to jump into third place at 12-under-par 204.
World No. 3 Stacy Lewis shot 2-under 70 for the second straight round and she is alone in fourth place at 10-under 206. Amy Yang matched Ko's 65 and she soared into a share of fifth at minus-9. Yang was joined there by Jessica Korda (69) and Austin Ernst (70).
Ko, the third-ranked player in the world, birdied the second to get her round started. After a par at the third, she converted birdie efforts at the fourth and fifth to move to 10-under par, where she trailed Jang by two.
The 17-year-old picked up another birdie at the eighth. Around the turn, Ko fell back to minus-9 as she 3-putted for bogey at 10 and 11. She quickly rebounded from there.
"I've been putting really well the last couple days. Even my front nine, I holed a lot of good putts when I had the chance. I was kind of shocked," Ko said of her bogeys.
Ko birdied the par-5 12th and made it two in a row as she also birdie the 13th to move back to 11-under. She followed with a birdie at 14 and that gave her a share of the lead.
At the par-3 15th, Ko drained a birdie effort to keep her roll going. She poured in her fifth consecutive birdie try at 16, and she now led by two.
Ko parred the final two holes to remain atop the leaderboard.
"I'm just going to concentrate on my game, just stay really positive, and if somebody else shoots a much better score than I do, I can't really do much about it," said Ko. "Just going to focus and hopefully I'll go out and shoot a good score tomorrow."
Jang played steady golf to start her round. The tour rookie started with nine straight pars. She finally got on the board with a birdie at the 10th.
However, a bogey at the 12th dropped her into a share of the lead at minus-12 with Choi. Jang ran off three pars in a row from the 13th before inching within one of the surging Ko with a birdie at 16. Like Ko, Jang parred the final two holes.
"I think I just need a little more practice on my irons. In the first and second rounds, my iron shots were much better, but today they were really bad," Jang said through an interpreter.
NOTES: Ko has the 54-hole lead for the fourth time in her career ... She has won one of the previous three times she was in that position ... Inbee Park rallied with a 5-under 67 to move into a tie for 17th at 3-under-par 213 ... Ko and Lewis could both overtake Park for the top spot in the world rankings, Ko with a win, and Lewis with a win and Park finishing in a three-way tie for third or worse.