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Minjee Lee storms to two-shot LPGA lead in Cincinnati

Joel Carrett/AAP PHOTOS

Two-time major champion Minjee Lee has enjoyed an explosive day at the LPGA Tour's Queen City Championship in Cincinnati to take a two-shot lead into the final round.

Australia's Lee opened with three straight birdies on Saturday and made up a six-shot deficit at the turn on her way to a seven-under 65.

Lee played bogey-free on a Kenwood Country Club course that was so firm that even some shots with wedge had a hard time staying on the greens.

She leaned on her putter, closing out her round with a 12-foot par save.

That gave her a two-shot lead over Charley Hull of England and overnight leader Peiyun Chien of Taiwan, who rallied from a rough start to get back to even par for the day only to go long over the 18th green and miss a five-foot par putt.

Hull bounced back from a triple bogey to start the third round with seven birdies, posting a 68 that gets her in the final group.

Chien started with a double bogey, answered with two straight birdies but then lost ground with three bogeys over four holes to close out the front nine.

That included a three-putt bogey on No.9 that put her one shot behind for the first time all day.

Lee never slowed after her fast start. She went in front with a delicate flop shot from below the green on the reachable par-4 10th, the ball rolling out to a few feet for birdie.

She made a 15-foot birdie on the next hole and at one point was three shots clear.

"Having that momentum really helps, especially when you can save your par putts," Lee said.

"That's the key for momentum. Making birdies is nice, but key par putts are important, too."

Lee ended the day at 15-under 201 as she goes for her first win this year.

She had a three-shot lead at the Founders Cup earlier this summer, only for Jin Young Ko to rally to beat her.

Lee began to pull away with a two-putt birdie on the par-5 15th, followed by a wedge into 12 feet for birdie on the 16th.

Hull tried to keep pace with three birdies over her last six holes.

"It was quite windy, quite tricky," Hull said.

"Patches of (the greens) are firm, other patches are spinning. It's tricky, which I quite like. It plays into my hands."

Ruoning Yin of China, who needs to finish solo fourth or better to reach No.1 in the women's world rankings, began her round with three straight bogeys.

She got two of those shots back and had a 73, leaving her six shots behind in a tie for eighth.

Australia's Gabriela Ruffels (74) finished her day with three successive bogeys and shares 27th spot at four-under overall.