Austin Ernst takes the lead ahead of Yoko­hama Tire LPGA Clas­sic fi­nal

The China Post - - SPORTS - BY JOHN ZENOR

Austin Ernst en­dured a long weather de­lay be­fore grab­bing the lead at the Yoko­hama Tire LPGA Clas­sic. Now, she faces a marathon fi­nal day to claim her sec­ond ca­reer ti­tle.

Ernst took the lead at 10 un­der Satur­day be­fore dark­ness forced the sus­pen­sion of third-round play in the weather-de­layed event.

Ernest was 1 un­der through four holes af­ter wait­ing out a five-hour de­lay for rain and light­ning on the links-style Sen­a­tor Course. She passed sec­ond-round leader Yani Tseng, who had a bo­gey on the fourth hole to drop to 9 un­der, and has 31-plus holes to go.

“It’s go­ing to be a marathon,” said Ernst, who will re­turn to an 8-foot birdie putt on No. 5. “There’s a lot of golf left. It will ba­si­cally just be get as many birdies as I can. I know the scores are still go­ing to be low. It’s just go­ing to be more con­tin­u­ous golf than usual.’

Play­ers are ex­pected to stay in the same groups for early morn­ing starts Sun­day, try­ing to com­plete the 72-hole tour­na­ment.

Lexi Thompson, the 2011 win­ner, was 8 un­der along with Sei Young Kim, Tif­fany Joh, Syd­nee Michaels and Juli­eta Granada. Thompson com­pleted four holes, Kim seven, and Joh, Michaels and Granada five.

A num­ber of play­ers had to com­plete the sec­ond round Satur­day af­ter a 90-minute de­lay a day ear­lier. None com­pleted more than 14 holes in the third round.

Ernst, a 23-year-old for­mer LSU player, had a birdie on the sec­ond hole. She won the Port­land Clas­sic last year.

Tseng had hoped to ride mo­men­tum from her fin­ish on Fri­day. She had closed an 8-un­der 64 with an ea­gle and a birdie to move to 10 un­der.

The 26- year- old Tai­wanese player, ranked No. 1 for 109 weeks early in her ca­reer, is try­ing to snap an 85-event win­less streak dat­ing to the 2012 Kia Clas­sic.

Tseng won seven times in 2011, be­com­ing the youngest player to win con­sec­u­tive Rolex Player of the Year awards and earn­ing just shy of US$3 mil­lion. The 15-time tour win­ner’s only top-10 fin­ish of the year came when she tied for sec­ond in March in the LPGA Thai­land.

Kim was 3 un­der through seven and birdied her fi­nal two holes.

Play­ers and fans were sent scur­ry­ing to shel­ter with light­ning in the area about 45 min­utes be­fore the lead­ers were sched­uled to tee off. Rain and more light­ning fol­lowed through much of the af­ter­noon in sub­ur­ban Mont­gomery.

Sadena Parks, at 7 un­der through seven holes, said the course held up well and that the play­ers didn’t get rained on much dur­ing their round.

“The course drained very well, so the greens were still rolling out just as much,” Parks said. “And the fair­ways, the ball was re­act­ing the same as if it was dry.”

Ernst waited out the de­lay vis­it­ing with two aunts, her mom and a cou­ple of fam­ily friends.

“I was glad we did get a few holes in,” she said. “That way we should be able to fin­ish (Sun­day) so that will be good.”

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