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Originally published November 23, 2013 at 8:05 PM | Page modified November 23, 2013 at 10:13 PM

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With 17 good holes, Natalie Gulbis works way into a tie for the lead

After a slow season, and a slow start to the third round, Natalie Gulbis is in a three-way tie in the chase for the LPGA’s biggest first-place prize


The Associated Press

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NAPLES, Fla. — For all the talk about $700,000 going to the winner of the LPGA Titleholders — the richest prize in women’s golf — Natalie Gulbis is far more interested in the trophy.

She hasn’t had one of those of her own in six years.

And this sure didn’t seem to be the place to end that drought. Not after spending the first half of the year battling malaria. Not after a season in which she has plunged to No. 64 on the LPGA Tour money list and No. 109 in the women’s world ranking.

And not after the start she had Saturday at Tiburon Golf Club.

Seven shots behind at the start of the third round, Gulbis tried to lay up on the right side of the fairway and hooked a 5-iron into the water on the left to make bogey on the par-5 opening hole. She followed that with eight birdies that sent her to a 7-under 65 and a three-way share of the lead.

Gerina Piller and Pornanong Phatlum of Thailand each had a 67 and joined Gulbis at 11-under 205.

“To walk away with the trophy ... it wouldn’t matter what amount the first place was,” Gulbis said. “To win another individual title would be huge for me.”

Stacy Lewis virtually wrapped up the Vare Trophy with a tournament-record 63, and now has a chance to do so much more. Lewis was two shots behind, along with Shanshan Feng of China (67), Lexi Thompson (67) and 36-hole leader Sandra Gal, whose 74 let so many players back into contention.

ELSEWHERE

Jason Day, at home in Australia, closed with a 1-under 70 to win the World Cup at Royal Melbourne with a 10-under 274. Thomas Bjorn of Denmark was second at 276 after a 71. Day also led Australia to the team title, coming in 10 strokes better than the U.S.

Jeff Coston, a teaching pro from Blaine, earned conditional status on the Champions Tour through Q-School. Coston had a 11-under 273 at TPC Scottsdale to tie for ninth, which missed by a stroke of getting a shot at a full exemption on the 50-and-over circuit. In the playoff for the best conditional spots, Coston hit his drive out of bounds and ended up 11th on the conditional list. Among those earning a full exemption for next year was Jim Rutledge of Victoria, B.C.

Charl Schwartzel shot a 3-under 69 to take a one-shot lead into the final round of the South African Open in Johannesburg.

Kevin Kisner shot a bogey-free 64 at Spyglass Hill and rallied for a two-shot lead over Jason Kokrak after three rounds of the Pebble Beach Invitational in California. Kisner had eight birdies, en route to a 13-under par 201. Andrew Putnam (65) of Tacoma was at 210, followed by Pullman High graduate Kirk Triplett (72—211), Kenmore product Jeff Gove (70—212), Tacoma’s Michael Putnam (69—212) and former Tacoma resident Brian Mogg (75—218).



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