Ariya Jutanugarn is on course to become the first Thai winner on the LPGA Tour as she and world No.1 Lydia Ko shared the lead after the third round of the Women's Australian Open yesterday.
One of the three co-leaders after two rounds at Royal Melbourne, Ariya, 19, shot a one-under-par 72 with three birdies and two bogeys in the third round for 212.
The 17-year-old New Zealander's usual birdie haul eluded her, with searing temperatures baking the greens.
Today's final round is expected to be a titanic battle between two teenagers.
The Thai star has never finished worse than 11th in her seven previous LPGA starts. The LPGA Tour rookie has finished second twice at this month's Bahamas Classic and 2013 Honda LPGA Thailand.
South Korea's Amy Yang laid down a challenge after a 70 to stay one shot off the pace on 213, while her compatriot Jang Ha-Na, who held the overnight lead with Ko and Ariya, signed for a 76 to drop to a share of sixth.
In an attempt to become the first Thai to win on the LPGA Tour, Ariya said she would give her all in the final round.
"Lydia and I are friends. It is nice to play with her and I won't be nervous,'' said Ariya, the only Thai left in the tournament.
Ariya started her third round with a first-hole bogey and then finished the front nine with a birdie at the ninth. She dropped another shot at the 12th but bounced back with birdies at the 14th and 17th.
"Today, the course was really firm and it was hard to approach. My tee shots were good but I missed a lot of short putts," Ariya said.
In her first tournament at Royal Melbourne, Ariya said the course was hard and challenging.
Normally an aggressive player, Ariya said she had to change her game. "My game plan is be patient and not hit driver and go for it on every hole."
"You hit in on to the green and you have this humungous break," she said. "It's tough in every aspect... it does feel like a major."
Ko said navigating Royal Melbourne's greens was so tough she predicted that 10-under would be enough to take the title today.
"Sometimes it's guess work so I think a couple under par would be good and that's going to be my goal," Ko said.