MEXICO CITY – Austin Ernst shot her second straight 5-under 67 on Saturday to take the third-round lead in the Citibanamex Lorena Ochoa Invitational.
Ernst had her second straight bogey-free round at Club de Golf Mexico after opening with a 72.
“I have been hitting my driver pretty well, which I get a lot of looks at birdie,” Ernst said. “I have had a lot of good looks this week so even when I am not making everything, like today, I still made five birdies. So, I have just made it very easy when I haven’t been sure about myself, missing greens and I haven’t had many hard putts for par.”
The 24-year-old American won the 2014 Portland Classic for her lone LPGA Tour title.
She’s coming off a two-week break.
“Everything I’ve been working in the last two weeks is definitely turning out how I wanted, so it is nice to see it,” Ernst said.
At 10-under 206, she had a one-stroke lead. Second-round leader Sarah Jane Smith of Australia had a 72 to drop into a tie for second with Spain’s Carola Ciganda (68).
“I was pretty nervous most of the day,” Smith said. “It was a position I’ve never been in before. I wouldn’t say I handle it well, but I scrambled well, so that should give me some confidence for tomorrow.”
Ciganda won her first LPGA Tour title last month in South Korea.
“It’s tough if you come from Asia, but I was in Spain for a week just resting,” Ciganda said. “There is a little bit of jet lag, but I think it is better to come from Spain rather than from Asia, which is like 12 or 13 hours. I feel good, I’m looking forward to tomorrow.”
Angela Stanford, the winner of the inaugural event in 2008 at Guadalajara Country Club, had a 69 to match Karine Icher (70) and Mi Jung Hur (71) at 8 under.
Mexican amateur Maria Fassi had a 65 to get to 6 under. She’s a freshman at the University of Arkansas. Gaby Lopez also was 6 under after a 73 on her home course.
Canada’s Brooke Henderson, the highest-ranked player in the field at No. 7, was 4 under after a 68.
Michelle Wie was tied for 20th at 1 under after a 74. The 2009 winner in Guadalajara, she’s playing on a sponsor invite after failing to qualify for the 30-player event.
Tournament host Ochoa won 27 LPGA Tour titles. The Mexican star retired in 2010. She will be inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame next year.