Nancy Lopez Melton birdied seven holes for a course record 66 today and took a three-shot lead heading into Sunday's final round of the Greater Balitmore Golf Classic at Pine Ridge.
Lopez, with husband Tim in her large gallery, tore up Pine Ridge's front nine with five birdies and a five-under par 32. She birdied two more holes on the back nine to best the old mark of 67 and has a two-round total of 135. She is a threat to break the 54-hole record at 207 set here by LPGA great Mickey Wright in 1969. Lopez has yet to make bogey.
"I didn't know I had a chance at the course record," Lopez said. "I feel good about getting it. I'm pleased with my round. Playing well means more than getting the course record. My main goal today was to birdie every par five."
Lopez said after Friday's opening round of 69 that she had failed to capitalize on the short par five here, all of which she can reach in two shots. cYesterday she got sweet revenge with birdies on all five par fives, plus the par-4 second and the par-3 eighth.
Sally Little birdied four of her first five holes, eagled the ninth with a long putt and went on to shoot 68. Little is in second place at 138.
Little had a great day on the greens. "I made everything I looked at," said the lean South African. "I'm getting used to the heat."
But the day belonged to Lopez, who two years ago won here and then won four more tournaments in a row for five consecutive LPGA victories. That year, she was named both LPGA rookie of the year and player of the year. She won the New Mexico amateur title at age 12 and has amassed more than half million dollars in less than three full years in the LPGA Tour.
She teed off in the hot midday sun one stroke behind first round co-leaders Joyce Kazmierski and Julie Stanger. Kazmierski and Stranger maintained their lead with birdies on the first hole. Little then took the lead briefly with her birdie surge but fell back with three straight bogeys.
From then on, it was a Lopez birdie barrage.
After she hit the par-5 469-yard 12th hole green in two and two-putted to go six under par for the day and 10 under for the tournament, a galleryite jested, "Someone better turn her off before she hurts somebody."
Frequently referred to as the best thing that every happened to the LPGA Tour because of her great ability and a smile that lights up an entire golf course, Lopez's game has sagged this year.
She laid off over the winter and came back in the spring with a stale game that hit its nadir with an 83 in the May Coca-Cola Classic.
Her father Domingo took one look at her swing and said, "It's too flat." Now she is swinging on a more upright plane, hitting the ball 250 yards again with confidence.
"I feel good because my confidence is back. By practicing and working on your swings, that increases your confidence. You know what shots you can hit and that helps you be aggressive and shoot for the pin.
"Tomorrow I want to go out and be aggressive. There are a lot of people out there who can birdie holes. Anything can happen."
Stranger, a two-year pro, shot a 68 in near anonymity today. She is tied for a third at 139 with Pat Bradley who shot 70.
"Today was the first time I was ever in the last group (the leaders) and no one was following us," said Stranger. "It was awful. That was my best chance (to be noticed)."