Leona Maguire is trending in the right direction after firing a three-under par 68 to move into the top-10 at the ActewAGL Canberra Classic.
The Cavan professional, who made an encouraging start to her Ladies European Tour career last week with a top-20 finish at the Australian Ladies Classic at Bonville, finds herself just six shots off the lead heading into the final round in the Australian capital.
Maguire carded three birdies and a sensational eagle at the par-5 18thto claim a share of 9thspot heading into the final day at Royal Canberra.
The former world amateur number one seems to be accelerating her progress in the professional ranks with each passing week and she’ll be hoping to post a score in the clubhouse to give the leaders something to think about come the back nine on Sunday.
At the top, Anne Van Dam from the Netherlands shot the round of the day and will share the lead with Slovenia’s trailblazing golfer Katja Pogacar heading into the final round.
Van Dam shot an eight-under 63 in hot and still conditions at Royal Canberra on Saturday to share the lead at 11-under, but admitted it could have been much better.
Starting her round with consecutive birdies on the first and second holes, she birdied five holes in a row from the sixth to the 10th and had a birdie chance from 15 feet on the 11th and an eagle chance from 20 feet on 12, after she drove the green, but three-putted and lost momentum. The 23-year-old from Arnhem fought back with a birdie on 15, but three-putted for a par on the last hole.
The three-time Ladies European Tour winner, who won the Estrella Damm Mediterranean Ladies Open and Costa del Sol Andalucia Open de España late last year, told reporters that thoughts of a 59 went through her mind after making seven birdies in her first 10 holes.
“When I birdied 10, I thought, I need five more birdies, which I think is do-able, especially on the back nine, which is easier. I’m in a good position and I really like the course. It suits my eye and I’ve been hitting a lot of good shots, so I’m looking forward to tomorrow. I’d sign for another round like that right away.”
The European Solheim Cup points leader added: “I’m swinging it really good, so I’m going to keep playing aggressively. That’s my game and I need to keep playing aggressively because that’s how I make my low scores.”
Pogacar, the first player from Slovenia to qualify for the Ladies European Tour, holds a share of the lead and will play in the final group for the first time, with Van Dam and Scot Carly Booth, who carded a 65 and is one shot back on 10-under.
Pogacar started with a bogey on her first hole, the 10th, but birdied the next two holes before making an eagle on the par-5 18th. She then carded four more birdies on the front nine at the first, fourth, sixth and ninth, holing a breaking putt from 25 feet.
“It feels awesome. I’m really excited,” said the 24-year-old from Ljubljana. “I played some solid shots and I had to wait patiently for the putts to roll in.”
Booth, who had seven birdies and a bogey, said it was a good putting day. “I was really comfortable over the ball today and I was comfortable with my putts, so that helped massively.
“I went flying from holes 10 to 12 and birdied those three, which were a bit unexpected really. I hit good shots and saw the putts, so I didn’t make any silly errors. I made one bogey where I missed the fairway on the right and blocked myself out but apart from that it was pretty solid and my pace putting has been really good. That has helped me visualise the pace and line of the putts and that makes such a difference.
“I’m feeling positive about this year. It’s a new year to get myself in gear and I feel it’s on the right track and a lot of it is self-belief. I’m starting to believe in myself again.”
Jiyai Shin is right behind in a share of fourth position with Belgian Manon De Roey. Shin played in her first competitive round of the year on Friday, but was back in the swing with a 64 on Saturday.
Shin said: “I feel better. I played pretty well and had a bogey-free round, so I’m happy with that. I’ve enjoyed my last few days here and unfortunately I only have one more day, but I’ll try my best. I can feel how much I want it, so I will try.”
Swede Madelene Sagstrom lies in sixth and Hannah Green is the best of the Australian contingent in a share of seventh with Meghan MacLaren. Maguire is tied for ninth, six shots from the lead, alongside Finn Noora Komulainen.
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