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The name "Pepper" might as well have been in flashing lights on the leader board after Saturday's third round of the LPGA Rochester International.

Eight players still were within three shots of the lead entering today's final round at Locust Hill Country Club.

However, Dottie Pepper was the only one of those names that stands out in the world of women's golf.

Pepper, one of the top five players in the world five years running, moved into position to defend her Rochester title by shooting 1-under-par 71 on a sweltering, windy day.

She stood 7-under for the tournament, one shot behind leader Allison Finney. Gail Graham and Nanci Bowen each were tied for second with Pepper.

Pepper, 31, has 14 career victories and is feeling great about her game after taking the past two weeks off in preparation for Locust Hill.

"If I play go out and play the way I'm capable, it will be very difficult for someone to shoot lower than I can," Pepper said.

Besides being one of the top putters and iron players on the LPGA, Pepper also ranks near the top in confidence.

All of which bodes ominously for the other contenders.

Finney, 38, has not played in the final group on Sunday in eight years, since her lone tour victory in 1989. She ranked 94th in earnings last year and stands 137th this year.

Part of the reason for her slump this year is she is president of the LPGA Players' Association, which requires her to handle everything from slow-play complaints to help in arranging sponsorship deals.

"When they talked me into taking the job, they promised me I would win," joked Finney of the one-year post. That's what happened when recent office-holders Judy Dickinson, Vicki Gergon and Elaine Crosby held the job.

Finney, an Illinois native, is driving the ball straighter than usual this week and holed a sand wedge from 94 yards for eagle on the 12th hole en route to her 69 Saturday.

"Overall, the strength of my game has been my iron play," Finney said. "I've sort of had a wild driver and a balky putter at times. But in between I get it done."

Finney looked like she would be leading by three but she bogeyed both the 16th and 17th holes by missing 3-foot putts.

"I was feeling so comfortable and relaxed most of the day I wasn't thinking about being in the lead," Finney said. "I told myself that today wasn't the pressure day. But I'll have to think of something else for Sunday because that won't work."

Graham, whose 66 was the best in the third round, outdueled Karrie Webb to win the Australian Ladies Masters in March. That was the second career win for the 33-year-old British Columbia native, who has ranked between 40th and 52nd in earnings the past four years.

Bowen, 30, has one career win in six years and ranks 25th this season.

She moved up to second place by chipping in from 40 feet for eagle on the par-5 17th in a round of 67.

Tied two shots back were Joan Pitcock, 29, and Australian Wendy Doolan, 28.

Kim Saiki and Penny Hammel were tied at 5-under-par.

Three of the top six players after the second round free-fell out of contention.

Nancy Scranton made seven bogeys and two double bogeys to shoot 79 and drop from tied for first to tied for 17th. Cindy Schreyer shot 76 and was six back. Michelle McGann shot 78 and was eight behind.

Four-time winner Patty Sheehan shot 71 and was five shots behind.

The leaders tee off at 12:50 today.

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