Masson maintains her lead into the final round

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland -- Caroline Masson, the surprise leader halfway through the Women's British Open, became a still more surprising third-round leader as she handed in a 68 to go into the last round with a two-stroke lead over defending champion Yani Tseng, the world's No. 1 player.

In last year's British Open at Royal Birkdale, the German, then 21, missed the cut with rounds of 77 and 82. A year later on the Carnoustie Golf Links, Masson has had back-to-back record rounds. Her second-round 65 set the Women's British Open 36-hole record at 11 under par, a pace she continued Saturday with a record-setting three-round tally of 15 under.

After Masson and Tseng (13 under), Scotland's Catriona Matthew and Inbee Park are tied for third place at 9 under. In a three-way tie for sixth place, Brittany Lang is 7 under and the best of the Americans.

Masson continues to find it tough to believe what she is doing. "It's a strange feeling," she said. "I have been hitting the ball well and everything was coming together, but it's unbelievable that it should be happening this week."

Though Masson made a nervous bogey at the start of her third round, she promptly followed it with a birdie, which made her feel comfortable.

"After that," she said, "I enjoyed the gallery and the game."

She watched the leaderboard, but even the sight of the advancing Tseng -- the Taiwanese player was out in a nondescript 36 but came home in 30 -- did nothing to throw her. "I knew what Yani was doing, but for most of the time I was in the lead by quite a few shots, so that gave me more confidence."

Tseng, in turn, was not surprised when Masson did not take a tumble.

"There are so many great players in this field and she is obviously one of them," she said at the end of her 66.

Like many at Carnoustie, Tseng had never heard the name Masson before this week, asking "Who's that?" when she first noticed the name on the leaderboard. Tseng offered that there might be players on this side of the Atlantic who did not know her name, either -- a delightfully unassuming if unlikely suggestion on her part.

The most exciting events of the afternoon occurred at the 14th hole, where Gary Player hit his second to within six inches on his way to defeating Jack Nicklaus and Bob Charles in the 1968 Open Championship. Tseng hit an almighty second into the wind to catch the green of this 467-yard par-5 -- and then proceeded to hole out from 25 yards for the eagle.

The spectators roared their approval, but if the noise reached Masson's ears, there was no reaction.

Minutes later, the German player made a birdie at the 14th, then followed Tseng in making birdie at the 17th. At that, she was three shots clear of the world No. 1 as she reached the 18th tee.

It could be that the sight of the crowds gathered 'round the green induced a touch of those same first-hole nerves in Masson. After a good enough tee shot, she caught a greenside bunker with her second on her way to finishing as she had started -- with a bogey.

The leader insists that she is more excited than alarmed at the prospect of playing alongside Tseng in the fourth round. "I'm looking forward to meeting her and playing with her," said Masson. "I'm sure I can learn from her and I'm sure I'm going to have fun."

The young German has no intention of wasting what she sees as a golden opportunity.

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