Maguire stays in the mix as Meadow shows her true grit in Florida

Adam McKendry
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Maguire stays in the mix as Meadow shows her true grit in Florida

Stephanie Meadow (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)

Leona Maguire’s title bid at the Pelican Women’s Championship in Belleair, Florida hit the buffers on day three as she slipped off the pace at the top of the leaderboard.

A second consecutive two-under 68 moved her up to 12-under but she is now four shots off the lead, jointly held by World No.1 Nelly Korda and Lexi Thompson at 16-under.

Maguire is not out of the running to pick up her first LPGA Tour win, especially since she has the confidence of holding the course record at Pelican Golf Club after shooting an eight-under 62 on Thursday, but her momentum has stalled after back-to-back 68s.

Having claimed after her second round that it would be a “shootout” at the weekend for the title, the Cavan woman had enough birdies to back that up – four in total – but also had two bogeys to peg her back.

She also wasn’t helped by the fact that her playing partners, Matilda Castren and Mi Hyang Lee, were struggling for form as both shot 72s, which perhaps contributed somewhat to her own struggles.

After six pars to start, the 26-year-old birdied the seventh and ninth to move in the right direction, but a bogey at the 12th was a body blow as Korda and Thompson pulled away ahead of her.

Two more birdies arrived at 14 and 17, but another bogey at the 16th dropped her back again and she will need to go low in her final round to stand a chance of ending her wait for a maiden LPGA crown.

Korda was one shot off tying Maguire’s course record as she signed for eight birdies and one bogey in a superb 63 that gave her the early clubhouse lead having started two shots back.

She would then be matched by Thompson, however the former Kraft Nabisco champion will be frustrated she does not hold the lead on her own as she bogeyed the 15th and then missed back-to-back six-footers for birdie at her final two holes.

The 26-year-old had to settle for a five-under 65 that has her alongside Korda at 16-under going into the final day, with Jennifer Kupcho a shot further back after a 66 in her third round, while Christina Kim and Sei Young Kim lie 14-under in a share of fourth.

Meanwhile, Stephanie Meadow who entered the week projected at 101 will start the final round in Belleair inside the top-100 in the Race to CME Globe standings as she bids to retain her LPGA playing rights for next season.

The Jordanstown woman carded five birdies and one bogey in a 66 that takes her to four-under for a week and into a tie for 41st. However, more importantly, it has her up to 99th in the points list for the season.

Needing to finish inside the top-100 in the order of merit, Meadow now knows if she can maintain her position at the end of the final round then she will be back on the main circuit next year and will, for the second time in three years, have rescued her Tour status at the final tournament of the season.

“I just looked it up two seconds ago,” Meadow said after walking out of the scoring booth. “You know, there is so much golf. I have 18 more holes, and it’s not just me, it’s everybody else. There are other girls that can move me out, too.

“So, I think the most important thing is just do my best and go as low as I can. You know, I had 10-under in my head after yesterday. That leaves it not to chance. I’m going to try to do my job.”

She can take plenty of positives from her third round, too, the 29-year-old seeing a birdie at her opening hole cancelled out by a bogey at the second, but she was flawless from then on, gaining shots at the fifth, sixth, 14th and 17th to move up the leaderboard.

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