The 25-year-old LPGA Tour recording leader made the move on Saturday as she clinched her first win of the year and seventh of her career.
Lee had a back nine run and a 3-under 69 shot to take a one-sided lead over Sweden’s Madeleine Sagstrom on a day the Upper Montclair Country Club showed some teeth as the wind rose early and rain led the last 11 holes.
Lee, who had three shots halfway ahead, was at 17-under 199 after 54 holes.
“You know, I’ve had a really big hit this whole year,” said Lee, who finished two thirds this year. “I’ve been working really hard on everything and working hard on everything, so it will be really nice to see the result of the win.”
Sajstrom, the Swedish who advanced in the first round after 63, finished in a third round best with a score of 67. The 29-year-old is chasing her second win.
“I got a good result today, and if I keep playing, keep shooting good, and give myself good chances, you never know,” Sajstrom said. “But I just have to stay for the moment. That’s really what I have to do.”
Sagstrom briefly went into a tie with a birdie at Bar 5 12 as Lee drifted with a No. 11 after a foul shot on the tee.
Lee regained the lead with the Eagle in 12th and the Flying in 13th in pitches ranging from 15 to 18 feet.
“I think everyone can get into two parts in that hole,” he told me.
Lexi Thompson started the tour with a tie with Sagstrom at under 11, and was alone in third, after three shots after 69. She may have been closer to her first win since 2019 but she just missed at least five or six shots.
“I don’t think about it that far,” Thompson said of the win. “I’m just going out tomorrow, take one shot at a time. I know I’m working, so come here, relax, and stick to the golf club; that’s all I can do.”
Angel Yen shot 68 and moved up to fourth at 11 under. She had five sparrows and a ghost.
“I’ve already left a lot there,” said Yin. “I hit it really well so I gave myself a lot of looks. That was really good. In fact, I left at least four of there and I felt like I could have made it.”
Ally Ewing, who tied for second place after two rounds, had none at scoring 74. She was tied for fifth in the under 9 with Paula Reto of South Africa and Megan Khang.
Japan’s Nasa Hataoka, who won Los Angeles last month, was in a group nine shots off the lead. Jennifer Kupshaw, winner of Mission Hills’ first major of the season, was eight, too.
South Korea’s two-time defending champion and first-placed Jin Young-koo were down from fifth.
Anna Davis, the 16-year-old left-winger who recently won the Augusta Women’s National Amateur, stayed four years old after shooting on an equal footing.