Leona Maguire and Stephanie Meadow carded their best rounds of the week – a pair of three-under par 69s – as Sei Young Kim moved to the front ahead of the final round of this season’s CME Group Tour Championship.
Maguire hit a perfect 14 fairways as she carded six birdies and three bogeys to move into a tie for 34th at two-under par. The always impressive putting supremo from Cavan needed 28 stabs of the short blade and will look for a repeat performance on Sunday to bank as much as she can of the $3million prize pot ahead of the off-season.
That will be the same mission for Meadow who maintained her position a shot behind the Cavan professional but moved inside the top-40 to a tie for 37th at one-under. Meadow hit 16 of 18 greens in regulation, needing 31 putts before signing for five birdies and two bogeys in her three-under 69.
While the pair play for places, Sei Young Kim is in position to defend her title in the Tour Championship, take player of the year honours, win the money title and possibly even move to No. 1 in the world. Kim took a one-stroke lead over top-ranked Jin Young Ko into the final round of the LPGA Tour season, shooting a five-under 67 on Saturday in warmer conditions at Tiburon Golf Club to reach 13-under for the tournament.
“Really good chance to chase everything,” Kim said. “If I play well tomorrow, good chance.” For Kim to take the No. 1 spot in the world from Ko, she would have to win Sunday and have Ko finish solo 10th or worse. Ko has held the top spot for 73 weeks in a row.
Georgia Hall was third at 10 under after a 68. Lexi Thompson (71), Brooke Henderson (66), Charley Hull (66), Minjee Lee (66) and Austin Ernst (69) were nine under.
Kim is tied for the tour victory lead with Danielle Kang with two, winning the major KPMG Women’s PGA Championship and Pelican Women’s Championship in consecutive starts in October and November. The South Korean star played a 12-hole stretch from the second to the 13th in 6 under, then dropped a stroke on the par-4 18th.
“My vibe was really good because warmer weather, and then I play pairing with Jin Young and Lexi (Thompson). Those are my favourite player, so yeah, it was fun. We wasn’t talking much but it was very comfortable and chill out there.”
Kim and Ko are longtime friends: “Always fun playing with her,” Ko said. “We play together last year and we played — we practiced together at the U.S. Open last week. So we knows each other. But this is competition, so we are close but we have to separate on the course.”
Coming off a second-place tie last week in Houston in the U.S. Women’s Open, Ko has a chance to win the money title in only four events. The $1.1 million winner’s prize, down from $1.5 million last year, is the richest in women’s golf. Ko is 13th with $567,925. Inbee Park is the leader with $1,365,138, and Kim second with $1,207,438.
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