Germany’s Caroline Masson shot a third round of four under par 68 to take a two stroke lead into the final round of the Ricoh Women’ British Open at Carnoustie in Scotland.

The 22-year-old second year Ladies European Tour player from Gladbeck finished at 15 under par to hold off a charging Yani Tseng, the defending champion from Chinese Taipei, who shot 66.

Masson, ranked 141st in the world, said that she’d never dreamed of leading the Ricoh Women’s British Open and playing with the world number one in the final round.

“I haven’t even dreamed about that. It doesn’t feel normal,” was her reaction. “I’m really excited for tomorrow and really looking forward to it.”

No player from Germany has ever won a women’s major championship, but Masson was inspired by Martin Kaymer’s major triumph at the 2010 PGA championship. They share a coach in Günther Kessler and Masson had picked up some tips from the former men’s world number one before hitting the links.

“It’s more like the mental side that you just accept whatever is coming, the conditions, and you just ‑‑ that you’re prepared for bad bounces or maybe an unlucky shot or whatever,” said Masson, ranked 10th on the LET’s 2011 Henderson Money List after four top ten finishes this season, including a career best tie for second at the Lalla Meryem Cup in Morocco.

“Martin loves links golf and loves this ‑‑ I don’t know, loves this kind of golf.  I was thinking about that a little more.  Sometimes I’m getting mad when I get a bad bounce or whatever, so I think that helped me a bit to stay calm on the course.”

Masson plays at Golf club Hübbelrath in Düsseldorf, the same as Sandra Gal, the German player who won on the LPGA Tour this year at the Kia Classic.

Should Masson win on Sunday, she would become the third player in history to make the Ricoh Women’s British Open her first victory since the event became a major in 2001. Former first time winners (on the LPGA Tour) were Jeong Jang in 2005 and Jiyai Shin in 2008.

Masson admitted that she felt slightly nervous holding a one stroke lead at the start of the round, which led to a bogey at the first and last holes, but otherwise she was solid.

“I did enjoy it.  I mean, I was quite nervous at the beginning, made bogey on the 1st hole but then birdied the 2nd, so I felt really confident after that.”

She three-putted the first, but quickly recovered, holing a six-footer for birdie at the second hole. With further birdies on the fifth and the sixth, she made the turn in two under 34.

She holed further birdie putts on the 11th, 14 and 17th holes coming home, before a wayward 3-iron approach shot into a greenside bunker led to a closing bogey on 18, for a matching inward total of 34.

Tseng, 22, is poised two shots behind and trying to become the youngest player in history to win five majors.

She was out in level par 36 but picked up five shots in her first five holes on the back nine after holing a monster putt for an eagle three on the 14th. She then holed for birdie on the par-five 17th hole.

“I played really good today.  They had some really tough pins out there, but I played really smart and I hit my irons very well,” Tseng said. 

“I made one really, really long putt on No. 14.  That was like 23 yards, and after that I told my caddie, I haven’t putted that long putt for a while.”

Scotland’s Catriona Matthew, the 2009 champion, is the highest placed Brit on nine under par, alongside Inbee Park and was delighted with her round of 68: “I knew I had to go out there and shoot a pretty low number, so yeah, very happy,” she said.

“I think it depends on the wind tomorrow.  I think it’s meant to be a little bit windier tomorrow, so six shots really isn’t much if the wind blows around here.”

The final round begins at 7.10am on Sunday, with the leading pair out at 12.45pm.