China’s Feng Shanshan had an eagle and three birdies in a four-under par 67 to seize a two-stroke lead in the LPGA Manulife Financial Classic.
Feng on Saturday had a 15-under par total of 198, two strokes in front of South Korean Park In-Bee and American Michelle Wie.
Park, who had held the world number one ranking for 59 straight weeks before she was dislodged by Stacy Lewis on Monday, continued her climb up the leaderboard with six birdies and no bogeys in a 65.
Wie joined her on 200 with a three-under 68 that featured six birdies and three bogeys on the Grey Silo Golf Course.
Feng is seeking her fourth LPGA Tour victory and her first since the season-ending CME Group Titleholders last year.
Park is after her first win of the season.
Feng got off to a torrid start and was four-under through her first six holes with an eagle and two birdies.
But she later admitted she may have tried too hard to maintain that pace.
“Maybe that actually made me think a little more that I wanted to do better — then I couldn’t make a lot of putts.
“Actually I missed a lot of birdie putts and then plus one bogey, so actually I dropped back one shot.”
Feng had led by as many as four before her bogey at 16, where she was in the hazard off the tee. She missed a five-foot putt to save par and preserved a two-stroke cushion with pars at her last two holes.
Park, who said this week that losing the top spot in the rankings might be just the motivation she needs, would be pleased to notch her first win of the season two weeks before she defends her title at the US Women’s Open at Pinehurst.
“Just the first (win) is very important,” she said. “That gives you so much confidence that you can just play without the pressure for the next event.”
American Cristie Kerr was alone in fourth after a 65 for 201, while New Zealand teen Lydia Ko had seven birdies in a flawless seven-under 64 for 202, level with Sweden’s Anna Nordqvist, who posted a 69.
Ko, ranked third in the world, has a mathematical chance of overtaking Lewis atop the rankings here. The 17-year-old would have to win and Lewis finish eighth or worse.
Defending champion Park Hee-Young of South Korea, who shared the overnight lead with Feng, was undone by three late bogeys, posting a one-over 72 that left her in a group of four players on 203.