HAVRE DE GRACE, Md. - After a pair of smoking-hot 65s on a day too hot for anything but swimming or snoozing under an air conditioner, two relative unknowns lead going into today's final round of the McDonald's LPGA Championship.
For the record, they are Jee Young Lee, at 12 under, a young South Korean who has never won an LPGA tournament; and, 1 shot back at 11 under, Maria Hjorth, a three-time winner on the LPGA Tour.
But the big show everybody wants to see could be provided by the two superstars breathing down their necks at Bulle Rock.
Lorena Ochoa and Annika Sorenstam are both 2 shots behind the lead at 10 under.
Ochoa, who shot 72 yesterday, is the No. 1 player in the world and is chasing her third straight major title. Sorenstam shot 68, is ranked No. 2 in the world, and is chasing history before she retires at the end of the year.
"This is what I work for, this is what I look forward to," Sorenstam said. "Everybody wants it badly. The one that wins is the one that stays cool, stays patient, and makes less mistakes."
Then, in a nod to the stifling heat and humidity that forced many players, including Sorenstam, to take refuge beneath high-tech parasols yesterday, she suggested she think more carefully about today's outfit.
"I'm not going to wear a brown top tomorrow," she joked. "I'm going to wear something light."
When competition began yesterday, Ochoa was at 10 under, leading by a shot and showing every indication she might run away with this thing.
But a funny thing happened on the way to her victory party - it got postponed, maybe even canceled.
Few could have predicted that Lee and Hjorth would shoot 7 under for the day.
Lee carded seven birdies, a double-bogey and an eagle. Hjorth's card was mundane by comparison, showing nothing but pars and seven birdies. Given her history of consistency, Sorenstam's four-birdie, no-bogey 68 was almost predictable.
But Ochoa shot a relatively (for her) sloppy 72.
She three-putted for bogey on the first hole, which immediately cost her the lead. Things got worse at the par-3 seventh, when Ochoa pulled a 7-iron left of the green and her ball settled in deep rough in an awkward lie on an upslope.
On her next shot, the ball popped straight up, advancing about a foot. "I thought I swung aggressive enough, but the club just went under the ball," said Ochoa. She went on to make double-bogey and drop down the leader board.
Ochoa responded, though, making four birdies against one bogey on the closing 11 holes.
On Friday, when she shot 65, Ochoa had marveled at how easy the game seemed. Yesterday? "Very hard," she said, laughing. "The opposite."
Still, Ochoa said: "If they would have asked me on Tuesday if I would take this position, I would take it. I am just glad to have a chance tomorrow."
On Friday, during the announcement that the LPGA Tour will take over the McDonald's LPGA Championship beginning in 2010commissioner Carolyn Bivens said she preferred the tournament remain in the Northeast, which could mean anywhere from Baltimore to Boston.
Yesterday, tournament cofounder Herb Lotman, who will stay on as honorary chairman and adviser to Bivens, unofficially narrowed the possibilities. "Probably within an hour of Philadelphia," said Lotman.
Lotman said that tournament officials are just beginning to sort through a "multitude" of courses and that he expected a decision by the end of the year.