Ueda was even with Scotland’s Gemma Dryburgh heading to the par-5 No. 18 where she made a clutch birdie putt for a 4-under 68 to hold on to her one-stroke lead from the second round.
Ueda had birdies on two of her first three holes, but bogeys on Nos. 5 and 7 left the 36-year-old at 10-under. Things picked up after the turn when she had birdies on 10, 12 and 13 before a birdie-bogey-birdie finish to improve to 14-under.
"My shots were not so good like [the] same as yesterday," Ueda said. "I missed a short putt, and it made me unable to play well today. Then, I talked with my caddie about today's game plan and decided to get birdies as much as possible in par-5 holes in the back 9."
Ueda, who was a regular on the LPGA Tour from 2008-13, won this tournament in 2007 and 2011 and will be bidding for her third Japan Classic trophy on Sunday.
Dryburgh Cards 7-Under 65
Dryburgh got off to an impressive start with two straight birdies at the par-72 Seta Golf Course in Otsu, Shiga Prefecture.
After a bogey on the par-4 No. 4, she added two more birdies before the turn, then had four straight birdies from the par-4 10th hole en route to the day’s lowest score of 65 (matched by Thailand's Pornanong Phatlum) and a 36-hole total of 13-under 203.
"I hit a lot of good shots and had a couple where I hit to a foot, so [it's] always handy to do that," Dryburgh said. "Putted well, so everything was working pretty well today. Obviously the aim is to win, but anything that happens, just go with the flow. Just do my best, and see where it ends up."
Miyuu Yamashita shot a 69 and is in sole possession of third place at 12-under 204.
Linn Grant of Sweden also surged up the leaderboard with a 67 that included a run of five straight birdies from the par-3 No. 12.
"It was good overall," said Grant, who is aiming to be the fourth different Swede to win the Japan Classic. "I think the first nine was not where I wanted to be and kind of showed up on the last nine and put some birdies in, which made it more fun."
Grant is tied for fourth at 10-under 206 with Yuna Nishimura (67), Saiki Fujita (69), South Korean Jeongeun Lee (69) and Sakura Koiwai (70).
Suzuki, Furue Tied for Ninth
Ai Suzuki, who started the third round in second place just one stroke back of Ueda, struggled with her game and finished with a 72 that dropped her into a tie for ninth with four others, including 2021 champion Ayaka Furue (70).
Nasa Hataoka, the 2018 winner, had six birdies against a lone bogey for a 67, but after rounds of 74 and 71 is tied for 28th at 4-under 212.
Atthaya Thitikul of Thailand had three bogeys against a pair of birdies for a 73 that dropped her to a tie for 23rd and will make it difficult for the 19-year-old to win in her first tournament since being promoted to world No. 1.
The Japan Classic wasn’t part of the LPGA’s schedule in 2020 and 2021 due to COVID-19 travel restrictions but was contested on the JLPGA Tour.
The tournament is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year and features a field of 42 players from the LPGA Tour and 36 from the JLPGA Tour, which co-sanctions the event.
Author: Jim Armstrong
The author is a longtime journalist who covered sports in Japan for over 25 years. You can find his articles here.