Golf: Lydia Ko surges into outright lead heading into final round of Lotte Championship

Lydia Ko has surged into the outright lead at the LPGA's Lotte Championship, sinking a birdie with her last shot of the day for a one-shot advantage heading into Sunday's (NZ time) final round.

Seeking her first LPGA tour victory since 2018, Ko shot a third-round seven-under 63, and holds the outright lead at 21-under with one round to play.

Beginning her third round in second place behind overnight leader Yuka Saso of the Philippines, Ko started brightly with a birdie on her first hole, taking her to 15-under for the tournament.

Another birdie on the seventh hole had Ko complete her front nine without dropping a shot at two-under.

The Kiwi's hot run continued into the back nine, with another birdie on the 11th cementing her as a contender for the title.

Four birdies on Ko's last five holes - coming on the 14th, 15th, 17th and 18th - were enough to see the Kiwi leapfrog American Nelly Korda (20-under) into the outright lead.

All up, Ko finished her third round blemish-free, shooting seven birdies and 11 pars. 

But with only one shot in it, Ko and Korda will square off for the title when the final round tees off on Sunday. Earlier in the day, Korda shot nine-under to cement herself as Ko's closest challenger.

Overnight leader Yuka Saso dropped away with an inconsistent third round of one-under, but remains in contention at 17-under, four shots behind Ko.

Ko's last win came at the LPGA's Mediheal Championship in April 2018, where the Kiwi defeated Australian Minjee Lee in a playoff.

Earlier this month, Ko missed out on victory at the ANA Inspiration, the first Major of 2021, by two shots, despite a jaw-dropping 10-under score of 62 in her final round.