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Gulbis closing in on her first title in six years
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Naples, Fla. • For all the talk about $700,000 going to the winner of the LPGA Titleholders — the richest prize in women's golf — Natalie Gulbis is far more interested in the trophy.

She hasn't had one of those of her own in six years.

And this sure didn't seem to be the place to end that drought. Not after spending the first half of the year battling malaria. Not after a season in which she has plunged to No. 64 on the LPGA Tour money list and No. 109 in the women's world ranking.

And not after the start she had Saturday at Tiburon Golf Club.

Seven shots behind at the start of the third round, Gulbis tried to lay up on the right side of the fairway and hooked a 5-iron into the water on the left to make bogey on the par-5 opening hole. She followed that with eight birdies that sent her to a 7-under 65 and a three-way share of the lead.

Gerina Piller and Pornanong Phatlum of Thailand each had a 67 and joined Gulbis at 11-under 205.

"To walk away with the trophy ... it wouldn't matter what amount the first place was," Gulbis said. "To win another individual title would be huge for me."

There is plenty of work left, and a dozen players separated by four shots.

Stacy Lewis virtually wrapped up the Vare Trophy with a tournament-record 63, and now has a chance to do so much more. Lewis was two shots behind, along with Shanshan Feng of China (67), Lexi Thompson (67) and 36-hole leader Sandra Gal, whose 74 let so many players back into contention.

Michelle Wie, on the one-year anniversary of her peculiar putting stroke, had a 66 and was among three shots behind. Wie played with Lydia Ko, the 16-year-old from New Zealand who shot 72 and was nine shots behind in her pro debut.

Gulbis, who is getting married next month, became ill at her first tournament of the year in Thailand and later was diagnosed with malaria. She was told to rest for two months, take "medicine I can't even pronounce," and she spent the first part of the year trying to return too early and suffering setbacks.

It wasn't until June that she could get through a round of golf and have enough energy left to practice. She didn't qualify for any of the events on the Asia swing, instead spending that time at home in Las Vegas retooling her swing with coach Butch Harmon.

But she hit her stride on a warm day along the gulf shores of Florida. Even though the 5-iron was a shock, she quickly piled up birdies and finished with eight of them.

Pebble Beach Invitational

Pebble Beach, Calif. • Kevin Kisner shot a bogey-free 64 at Spyglass Hill and rallied for a two-shot lead over Jason Kokrak after three rounds of the Pebble Beach Invitational on Saturday.

Kisner, a PGA Tour member who won the Chile Classic in Santiago last March on the Web.com Tour, had eight birdies, en route to a 15-under 201.

Kokrak had a 68 at Spyglass, and was alone at 203. —

Leaderboard

CME Group Titleholders

Natalie Gulbis -11

Pornanong Phatlum -11

Gerina Piller -11

Stacy Lewis -9

Shanshan Feng -9

Lexi Thompson -9

Sandra Gal -9

Michelle Wie -8

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