Kirsten Rudgeley continued her fine form in Spain producing a round of 68 (-4) on day three of the Andalucía Costa del Sol Open de España.
The Australian, who held a two-shot lead overnight, had another day without a blemish on her scorecard at Real Club de Golf Las Brisas.
After making her first birdie on the third, the rookie rolled in three more on the ninth, 10th and 12th holes to sit at the top of the leaderboard on 13-under-par.
“I’m playing pretty good golf, I’m happy with everything,” said Rudgeley, who has only made one bogey so far this week. “It’s in the right place and I’m just going to play tomorrow and take it all in. As I’m a rookie, it’s all experience to me.
“I just go out there and enjoy it and play golf. I have got my uncle on the bag so it’s nice to chat completely about something else. It takes my mind off it. All I can do is play my best, hole some putts and see what happens.
“My uncle, that’s why he is here this week, he lives not far from here and I do like Spain. It’s good fun, it reminds me of home. It’s nice to have family over here, the two little cousins and I don’t have to travel 17 hours back to Perth to go home.”
Two players are in a tie for second place with Dutch star Anne Van Dam and India’s Aditi Ashok both on 11-under-par at the 54-hole mark.
Five-time LET winner Van Dam carded a bogey-free 65 (-7) to climb up the leaderboard with four birdies on her front nine and three on her back nine.
“It was one of those days where I got off to a really good start with a birdie and never looked back,” said the Solheim Cup winner. “I just went out there and painted the town red.
“I really feel like my mental part is becoming the strongest part of my game. If I look at today, I didn’t play flawlessly out there. I definitely had some missed shots but I’m getting very good at staying very calm and trusting myself that I can make a birdie from everywhere which showed today as well. I have been really enjoying working on the mental side. I never thought it would get there but it’s showing off this year with a lot of good results.”
Van Dam enjoys playing in this part of Europe having won the Andalucía Costa del Sol Open de España title in 2018 and 2019.
She added: “I still don’t know what it is about Spain! It’s probably the weather. It’s always just a pleasure to be here. The people are relaxed, obviously coming here at the end of the year and finishing up strong. There are a lot of Dutch people out here, they were loud today which was nice. It was fun to play for and I’m very excited for tomorrow.”
While Ashok had a phenomenal start to her round with five birdies on her front in Spain and she added another on hole 10.
The two-time Olympian ran into some trouble on 13 where she made a double bogey but soon made a birdie on 15 before another bogey on 17 for her round of 68 (-4).
“I was trying to make a move today; I think the front nine was good,” said Ashok, who won the LET’s season-opener in Kenya. “I gave myself a lot of birdie chances.
“I feel I missed a couple because I was looking at birdie on nearly every hole, but back nine it kind of slowed down and killed my momentum. I tried to force a couple of birdies, I three-putted on 17 but four-under is still a good round and hopefully, I can try and do better tomorrow.
“It would be the perfect win sandwich! I’m not thinking too much about that, it’s a course where if you’re playing well, you’re looking at birdie on every hole but if you hit one bad shot then you might drop one or two shots.”
Three players are in a share of fourth place with Belgium’s Manon De Roey, France’s Celine Boutier and Spain’s Ana Peláez Trivino all on nine-under-par.
LET winner De Roey produced a round of 67 (-5) to move herself up the leaderboard with seven birdies and two bogeys on her scorecard.
“It was definitely a good day, it was moving day today! I definitely moved up the leaderboard which was the plan,” said the Belgian.
“I’m just happy to be out here and playing my game again. I lost it a little bit this year in the middle of the year on the LPGA, I’m back with some confidence so I’m excited to play tomorrow again.
“I feel like this course suits me, I played with Anne Van Dam and Carlota [Ciganda], so I had to step up my game. We all played pretty well. I’m super excited for tomorrow.”
Major champion and world number three Boutier carded a round of 68 (-4) while Peláez Trivino signed for a round of 70 (-2).
England’s Gabriella Cowley, Spanish amateur Andrea Revuelta and 2022 Race to Costa del Sol champion Linn Grant are all T7 on eight-under after the first three days.
One shot further back is Norway’s Madelene Stavnar and France’s Anne-Lise Caudal, who are both tied for 10th place.
Round of the day went to Finland’s Sanna Nuutinen who fired a 64 (-8) to equal the course record set by Seve Ballesteros at the 1987 Open de España.
Based on the current positions of the Race to Costa del Sol contenders after the third round, Thailand’s Trichat Cheenglab is still in pole position and is projected to stay at the top of the rankings.
The final round begins at 9 am (local time) with the leaders teeing off at 11.01 am (local time) in Spain.