BETHESDA -- Officials of the Mazda LPGA Championship wanted to put their best faces before the national television audience. So, when NBC-TV said it would move its telecast back an hour to noon, officials had the top players tee off in the first several groups.
Betsy King, JoAnne Carner and Amy Alcott were the first group to tee off in the third round -- coming after the completion of the second round, which was suspended Friday because of rain. It was a change -- the top golfers usually start late -- that the leaders didn't seem to mind.
"You don't have to wait around all morning -- you just get up and play," said King, who responded with a third-round of 67 to increase her lead. "It wasn't too bad at all."
Helen Alfredsson, who is in second place going into today's final round, played in the group just behind King. Because she was one of the golfers affected by Friday's storm, she first had to complete her final hole of the second round.
"It was very nice to get out early," Alfredsson said. "I had to come out at 7:30 to finish. To have my tee time fairly close, it helped."
The earlier start will continue today. With NBC televising Game 7 of two NBA playoff series, this afternoon's telecast has been pushed back again to noon.
* Carner was the surprise of the tournament after the first two rounds, entering yesterday three shots off the lead. But after the 53-year-old Hall of Famer shot a bogey-free round of 66 Friday, she faltered a bit yesterday by bogeying three holes on the front nine.
Still, six shots behind King, Carner -- who has not won a tournament in seven years -- is not about to count herself out.
"Strange things happen on this course," said Carner, who entered the Hall of Fame in 1982. "I use to watch TV and watch [Jack] Nicklaus say: 'I need to shoot 64 to win. I just go out and hit my best.' If everything goes right, I'll do well."
But Carner admits that King will be difficult to catch.
"Betsy's trying to lap us," Carner said. "But we're not going to let her."
* Amy Alcott's bid to join the elite group in the LPGA Hall of Fame will apparently have to wait at least another week.
Alcott, who is one win shy of the 30 needed, started the day four shots behind King. But a third-round score of 2-over-par 73 left her 10 shots behind King with a three-day total of 2-under 211.
* Baltimorean Tina Barrett, one of 45 golfers who had to conclude their second round yesterday after play was suspended by rain on Friday, was one of 13 golfers with three-round totals of 3-over 216. Also in that group is Meg Mallon, last year's Mazda LPGA Championship winner.