BROKEN ARROW, Okla. (AP) -Defending champion Annika Sorenstam shot a 3-under 68 Saturday to take a one-stroke lead over Michelle Ellis and Maria Hjorth after three rounds of the John Q. Hammons Hotel Classic.

Sorenstam made back-to-back birdies at Nos. 14-15 to break a three-way tie for the lead at Cedar Ridge Country Club and moved into a position to win the event for the third time. She also won the tournament at Tulsa Country Club in 2002.

Tied with Hjorth and France’s Karine Icher, Sorenstam hit the pin with her chip for eagle at the 14th and tapped in for birdie. Icher matched Sorenstam with a 6-foot birdie putt, and both moved to 7 under. Sorenstam then hit a 5-iron to 21 feet at the par-3 15th and made the putt to take the lead.

Ellis had a 69 and Hjorth, the first-round leader after an opening 64, shot a 1-over 72 to get to 6 under.

Icher’s alone in fourth at 5 under after a 70, and Solheim Cup singles foes Paula Creamer (71) and Laura Davies (70) were tied with Leta Lindley (70) at 2 under.

Sorenstam has held the lead in both of her wins in this event. She was ahead by three strokes entering the final round last year and was leading by one in 2002.

“I don’t really look at how many shots I’m ahead or behind tomorrow,” said Sorenstam, who has won six LPGA Tour events and a European Tour event in Sweden this year. “I’m going to go out, and obviously I want to continue to hit the ball the way I have.

“This is a tough golf course. You really have to strike it well.”

Sorenstam also had birdies at the first, ninth and 10th holes. Her only bogeys came on two-putts at eighth and 17th.

“I think I played really well today, very solid overall; lots of fairways, lots of greens,” Sorenstam said. “I was really never in any trouble.”

Hjorth got to 9 under with three straight birdies starting at the ninth, but was slowed by a triple-bogey 7 at the 12th. She twice hit trees, had to take a penalty stroke and hit into a greenside bunker before two-putting from 15 feet.

“It was not too much damage,” said Hjorth, whose round also included six birdies and four bogeys. “It was mostly up out there. It was just that triple bogey that I had and I was a little bit unlucky. … Other than that, I was really happy with my round.

“I can definitely make birdies, and that’s a great feeling to have. I’m playing well, playing solid and giving myself the best opportunity to win the tournament.”

Icher, on the LPGA Tour since 2003, seemed to be trading shots with Sorenstam. She fell two shots behind with bogeys at Nos. 16 and 17.

“I know Annika can do everything, but it’s challenging to be with her and playing with her group,” said Icher, who has five top-10 finishes this year after never placing higher than 43rd. “She never missed a shot.”

The 19-year-old Creamer, who paced the United States to a 151/2-121/2 victory over Europe in last week’s Solheim Cup, had a round that included five birdies and five bogeys.

Davies, who was beaten 7 and 5 by Creamer in the Solheim’s final-day singles matches, had an inconsistent round of five birdies and four bogeys.

British Open champion Jeong Jang, who played in the same group as Sorenstam and Icher, is seven strokes back, in a three-way tie for 11th place, after a 72.

AP-ES-09-17-05 2035EDT


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