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LaCrosse, Pressel turn up the heat LPGA leader Tseng still 5 shots ahead

Yani Tseng's coronation as the reigning queen of women's golf seems like a certainty, unless two young Americans have anything to say about it today in the final round of the Wegmans LPGA Championship.

Tseng tied for the low score of the day, shooting a 5-under 67 in the third round at Locust Hill Country Club to open a five-shot lead on her nearest competition, Floridians Cindy LaCrosse and Morgan Pressel.

LaCrosse is certainly the least known among that threesome at the top of the leader board. The 24-year-old from Tampa, Fla., shot a second straight 69, moving up from a tie for sixth at the start of the round into the last group for today's finale (Golf Channel, 4 p.m.).

"I definitely like New York. I don't know what it is, either Wegmans or Dinosaur Bar-B-Que [in Rochester] is really good," she said. "I just feel comfortable here. I like the grass and the layout of the courses."

A 3-under 32 on the front nine included birdies on two of the first three holes and got LaCrosse to 8 under, well positioned to make a run at Tseng. The back nine was more of a grind, though, and she had to work to stay at 8 under.

LaCrosse bounced back from a bogey on the par-4 14th with a birdie at the par-5 17th. She then neatly saved par from a greenside bunker on the par-4 18th, which at an average of 4.25 strokes played as the toughest hole of the day.

"I would like to say no, it doesn't surprise me, but -- it's kind of cool that I'm in contention," LaCrosse said.

In five events this season, her best finish is a tie for 11th in the ShopRite LPGA Classic. She's made $33,583 on tour this year. A second-place finish today would earn her more than six times that. A win, more than 10 times.

How's that for pressure?

"I was kind of nervous the first couple holes [Saturday]," LaCrosse said. "I calmed down a little bit after, I think, No. 4. It was nice having people clap at you when you walk up to every green. Then I realized it was more for [playing partner] Paula [Creamer] than me. But it just kind of made me feel comfortable."

LaCrosse's good vibes in New York actually date back to 2008. That year, she caddied for her father, Doug, at nearby Oak Hill Country Club in the Senior PGA Championship.

"We actually got to play Locust Hill," said LaCrosse, who at the time was playing at the University of Louisville. "I remember having a really good time up here."

LaCrosse might not have the name recognition in a grouping with Tseng -- the world's No. 1 player -- but she's got an impressive resume for a young player.

While at Louisville she was a three-time All-Big East selection (2006-08) and the conference's Player of the Year in 2007.

Not bad for a walk-on.

"Every step that I've taken in golf I had no expectations going into it," she said. "That was kind of my advantage that I didn't have anything to lose."

LaCrosse also won the 2010 Futures Tour Player of the Year, the LPGA's top developmental tour, after a season that included three wins. Two of those came in New York -- the Alliance Bank Golf Classic in Syracuse and the Price Chopper Tour Championship in Albany.

She'll try to lean on those experiences today on the biggest stage of her professional career.

"You still get kind of nervous whatever tour it's on," she said. "Going through that on the Futures Tour has helped a little bit."

The cameras and crowds shouldn't be much of a distraction to Pressel, who will be in the second-to-last grouping. The 23-year-old from Boca Raton, Fla., has been around major championship golf seemingly her entire career. Pressel won the 2007 Kraft Nabisco Championship when she was just 18, the youngest player ever to win an LPGA major.

She stayed in the hunt for a second on "moving day" thanks to her pinpoint accuracy off the tee. Pressel hit 12 of 14 fairways in the third round a day after hitting all 14. She has found the short grass off the tee 79 percent of the time through the first three days.

Pressel was under the weather coming into the round, so she was pleased with her position.

"I thought I played OK. I didn't really feel that great [Saturday] morning -- so to go out there and shoot 2-under par, I was happy with that," she said.

To catch Tseng, both Pressel and LaCrosse will have to shoot something legendary today. The 22-year-old from Taiwan continues to play gorgeous golf. She hit 11 of 14 fairways and 14 of 18 greens on a windy, overcast day that featured some rain showers on her back nine. The lone bogey on her card came after a wayward tee shot into the left rough on No. 14.

No biggie. She stuffed her tee shot on the par-3 15th to 4 feet for another birdie, one of six on the day.

"I try to be patient every hole and play one shot at a time," Tseng said. "The course is very hard and I always like [a] challenge. It's not easy to shoot a low score on a major golf course. That's already in my mind, so I don't put too much expectations [on myself]. I feel very relaxed now and hopefully today, still the same thing."

Pat Hurst, who opened the day in second, shot a 75 to drop into a tie for ninth. South Korean Hee Young Park is alone in fourth at 6 under, followed by defending champion Cristie Kerr and fellow American Stacy Lewis in a tie for fifth at 5-under 211.

e-mail: jskurski@buffnews.com