New Zealand’s Lydia Ko and South Korea’s Ji Eun-hee each fired a five-under par 66 to share the lead after Saturday’s third round of the LPGA Tournament of Champions.
Ko and Ji charged into contention by going low on the front side and parring their way home to stand on 13-under 200 after 54 holes at the Four Seasons Resort in Lake Buena Vista, Florida.
Canada’s Brooke Henderson, who led by two strokes when the day began, took a bogey at 18 to settle for a 69 and fall one stroke off the pace in third with American Nelly Korda fourth on 202 after the day’s low round of 65.
The new season-opening event features celebrities playing alongside LPGA winners from the past two seasons and an unusual atmosphere for golf with music playing at the 18th tee and green when play is idle.
Ko opened her bogey-free round with a birdie, another followed at the third and she closed the front nine with back-to-back birdies then added another at the 12th and parred her way in, the last on a clutch six-foot putt.
Ko was able to relax even while being interviewed about her celebrity playing partners while on the 18th tee but Sunday’s final round is forecast to offer high winds as well.
“Tomorrow with the weather forecast it will be a little trickier, but I know I’ve just got to be patient and continue to enjoy it,” Ko said.
Ji birdied four holes in a row from the second through the fifth before a bogey halted her run. Ji also began the back nine with back-to-back birdies and parred the last seven holes to stay among the leaders.
“I still have to think about my new swing,” Ji said of changes she has been working on in the off-season. “I still work through it during the round.”
Henderson opened with a bogey but answered with back-to-back birdies at the par-3 fifth and par-4 sixth, birdied the par-5 10th and 13th then took a bogey at the par-3 14th but battled back with a birdie at 16.
World number one Ariya Jutanugarn of Thailand fired a 75 to fall back, taking bogeys at the fourth and par-5 17th and a double bogey at 15 in a birdie-less round that left her sharing 13th at 209.