Maguire fades as three share the lead at Ford Championship

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Leona Maguire (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

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It was a windy third round at the inaugural Ford Championship presented by KCC, but there were still low scores aplenty around Seville Golf and Country Club.

With 18 holes left to play, the hometown Phoenix native Sarah Schmelzel, Arizona State University grad Carlota Ciganda and major champion Hyo Joo Kim grinded through blustery conditions to sit with the 54-hole lead at -15.

Kim posted a 3-under 69 to open with three rounds in the 60s for the second time this season. She birdied three of her first four holes before making 14 straight pars en route to her seventh third-round co-lead/lead of her career. Schmelzel, a local LPGA*USGA Girls Golf alum, posted a 2-under 70 to edge her way onto the top of the leaderboard as she looks to be the season’s second Rolex First-Time Winner, following fellow American Bailey Tardy (Blue Bay LPGA).

Ciganda, who is looking for her first win in over 2,600 days, carded pars on her first four holes before an eagle made its way onto the scorecard on the par-5 5th. The Spainard added a birdie on 7 before the turn, eventually adding another on 13 before cancelling it out with a bogey on the next hole. But it was the par-4 16th that was the highlight of Ciganda’s day, making it the sixth time in her Tour career to card two eagles in a single round and joining Lexi Thompson in doing so this season. A birdie on the closing hole led to a final 6-under 66 to take her first third-round co-lead/lead since the 2018 Buick LPGA Shanghai.

“The wind is really strong. Lots of side winds, and it’s just, yeah, it’s just hard. I think if you can hit greens it’s good shots. There are some holes that are playing downhill and you can take advantage, as well as the par-5s,” said Ciganda. “I made two eagles, which really helped me today in my round. Yeah, very happy to be right there.”

Maja Stark sits in a tie for fourth with Yuka Saso, just one shot back at -14 after following up a second-round 70 with her second 66 of the week. Stark carded her second bogey-free round at the Ford Championship on a day that included an eagle on the 5th and four additional birdies. Stark, who entered the event No. 67 in the Race to CME Globe, is in her best spot heading into the final day since holding the 54-hole lead at the 2023 Buick LPGA Shanghai.

Meanwhile, Saso’s roller coaster of a Moving Day had her tied with the leaders at -15 heading to the 14th tee, before dropping down the leaderboard after a bogey and double bogey with three holes to play. Two birdies on 16 and 18 proved the resilience of the major champion, who is searching for her first win since making history at the 2021 U.S. Women’s Open at 19 years old.

“The conditions were obviously a lot different compared to first two days. Lots of wind, you know, three clubs difference on some holes. Still I think I played okay with the wind,” said Saso. “Controlled myself out there. Didn’t have a lot of misses. So I think it was a good day.”

There are 10 players at -13, like 20-time Tour winner Lydia Ko, who ended a bogey-free streak dating back to the 10th hole of her final round at the Blue Bay LPGA on No. 17 to make it 61 consecutive holes without a misstep. Ko had 12-straight pars on Saturday until a birdie on 13, and added two more to make it a 2-under 70 and still in contention for what could be a career-defining day, a win that would lead to LPGA Hall of Fame Induction.

Joining Ko at T6 includes #LPGAMoms Caroline Masson and Azahara Munoz, two-time major champion Nelly Korda, coming off her second-straight win of the season last week at Palos Verdes. A victory would make her the first player to win in three-straight appearances on Tour since Ariya Jutanugarn in 2016.

“It was brutal. Played like a completely different golf course. I think the wind started picking up at noon and just got progressively windier and windier as the day went on,” said Korda. “It’s very open out here, so the ball gets hit really hard with this weather. Happy to get in at 3-under. Wish I could have capitalized a little bit more on 18, but hopefully can do that tomorrow.”

Hannah Green, whose 61 on Friday had her at the top of the leaderboard after day two, fell to a tie for 21st after a 3-over 74 while battling a cold. Overall, 28 players sit in double digits with one last round remaining in the desert.

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