Kerr, Wright take Michelob lead as Ochoa falters

Williamsburg, VA (Sports Network) - Lorena Ochoa's game, so sharp through 36 holes, faded to a dull mishmash of aimless shots on Saturday as Lindsey Wright and Cristie Kerr grabbed the lead at the Michelob Ultra Open.

"It wasn't a good day for me," said Ochoa after shooting a three-over 74 that turned a three-shot overnight lead into a five-stroke deficit.

Ochoa's struggles -- especially during a five-hole stretch on the back nine when she dropped four shots -- allowed Wright and Kerr to move in front at the $2.2 million event.

Wright, a 29-year-old grinder who has never won on the LPGA Tour, set up a Sunday challenge for her maiden title with a sparkling seven-under 64 that was almost good enough for sole possession of the lead.

But Kerr birdied three of her final four holes to shoot a five-under 66 and tie Wright atop the leaderboard at 15-under-par 198. The 11-time LPGA Tour winner and 2005 Michelob champion said she found "the zone" on her back nine, patiently waiting to strike at the right time.

"I played within myself, didn't try to hit it that close when my swing wasn't on," said Kerr. "I waited for it."

The duo share a one-shot lead over In-Kyung Kim (67) and a two-stroke advantage over another Korean, Song-Hee Kim (68).

Ochoa is three shots further back in a tie for fifth place with Natalie Gulbis (68) and Wendy Ward (67) at 10-under 203.

The Mexican star was left hoping her third round was simply an aberration -- "A couple yards left or right and it would have been different," she said -- and it may have been.

After all, Ochoa's top-ranked game looked to be on cruise control while she posted scores of 64-65 in the first two rounds.

On Saturday, her lead dwindled to a single shot as she collected three straight pars to begin the round. She rolled in a birdie putt at No. 4 that doubled her advantage to two.

But Ochoa's lead was halved again to a stroke before she made the turn. And that's when she really began to fall apart.

Ochoa missed a simple six-foot par putt on No. 10, taking a bogey that dropped her into a four-way tie for the lead with Wright and the two Kims. She then bogeyed the 13th, chipping past the hole from beside the green, to fall one shot off the lead.

At the par-four 14th, Ochoa knocked her approach shot over the green and down a steep hill. It took her three more strokes to get on the green -- the first rolled halfway back down the hill, and the second reached only the fringe.

She walked off with a double-bogey and was suddenly four back.

"I misjudged the distance and was right away over the green," said Ochoa. "It just happens. Sometimes there's nothing you can do. It was just a mistake."

The 74 marked Ochoa's highest score this year and the 12th time in 26 rounds that she's failed to break 70. She has already won twice this season, bringing her career total to 26 titles.

Wright's bogey-free 64 -- a career-best -- included long birdie putts at the 15th and 17th holes that gave her a brief two-shot lead. The English-born Australian, who owns her first 54-hole lead on the LPGA Tour, credited her success this week to recent changes to her putting stroke.

"Today was good. Under pressure, it's working," she said.

Not realizing until late in the round that Ochoa had fallen so far back, Wright said she was more interested in her own game.

"She's a great player and everyone has one round a week that's not the best," said Wright. "Tomorrow's going to be a good one."

Kerr followed up her course-record-tying 63 on Friday with a steady performance on Saturday that should at least guarantee the 31-year-old American her fifth straight top-10 finish.

She also credited her putting after rolling in birdie tries on 15, 17 and 18 that totaled more than 30 feet in length.

"It's always been my favorite part of the game," said Kerr. "I practice that more than anything."

05/09 17:27:33 ET