A birdie at the par-5 18th ensured Leona Maguire’s one-shot advantage remained intact heading into the final round of the KPMG PGA Championship as she looks to land her maiden major title.
Maguire carded a two-under 69 to move to seven-under, one ahead of Jenny Shin and two clear of Jordanstown’s Stephanie Meadow.
The Cavan woman is looking to make it back to back wins following her Meijer LPGA Classic triumph last weekend and having held the lead in a major for the first time through 36 holes she showed dogged determination to cling onto that advantage.
“Yeah, first time I had ever been in that position. I feel like he handled it pretty well and tried not to treat it any differently than any other round, just like last week. I think same mindset tomorrow. Just me and Dermot will enjoy one more walk around this really nice golf course tomorrow.”
Maguire missed just two fairways – four overall this week – but one cost her a bogey six on the par-5 7th as she relinquished her advantage before a routine two-putt birdie saw her edge out in front on her own on 18.
It seemed plain sailing for the world number 12 who opened with a birdie before adding another on the par-5 7th. However, she began to push several approach shots and relied on her bunker play to keep her alive, registering 3/4 sand saves having not found a bunker in her first two rounds.
“I feel like it played a touch longer. We hit a lot of 5- and 6-hybrids today. I feel like I’m hitting my targets pretty well. I wasn’t quite as disciplined today maybe as I should have been. We picked really good targets. I kind of just got off a little bit on the back nine. But, yeah, for the most part executing really well and just need to do that again tomorrow.”
Her sand save record was broken on 17 with her only other bogey of the round coming on 11 after she three-putted from mid range.
She would soon bounce back from that three-putt with a birdie on the 15th to regain the lead as she bids to become the first Irishwoman to win a major title.
Maguire will be joined by close friend Meadow in the final group as the pair lock horns in a repeat of the 2011 Irish Women’s Amateur final.
“I probably have known Stephanie since I’ve been about 10, 11 years old. We played on caddie teams together and played on Irish teams together. We played Curtis Cup together. We played foursomes together. We roomed together.
“I’ve known Steph a long time. We’ve been good friend a long time. We’ve done battle many times before. It’s great to see her playing so well.”
The second lowest round of the day (67) was posted by 31-year-old Meadow who might feel she should be one closer after shoving a short birdie effort wide on 18.
Her five-under total is good enough for third as she bids for her maiden major title having only notched two top-10s in the big five championships – including a T10 in the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship last year.
“Today was a little different to the first two days but I played some awesome golf yesterday I think I hit 16/18 greens which was pretty stress free even though it was tough,” said Meadow who has recovered from an opening 74.
“Today was a little more go after it and I was taking it all in, held some nice putts and I enjoyed myself.”
The Antrim woman who is without a top-10 from her nine starts this season was superb from tee to green and like Maguire, rolled in birdies on the first and seventh holes.
Her only dropped shot of the day came on 10 but three birdies in five holes briefly catapulted her to within one of the lead as she played some of the best golf from the leading groups.
She was unlucky not to birdie 17, leaving a 12-footer in the jaws following an early bobble, but she gave herself another chancer to tie the lead in a major on 18 which she let pass.
“I need to stick to my feels, don’t be too aggressive because you get penalised out here for that, take my opportunities when they come and I’ve been on the tour for a long time and I relish the moments when I am in contention, this is what we live for and I want to be up here more often.”