Ariya Jutanugarn shot a blemish-free 6-under 66 to trail co-leaders Brooke Anderson and Nelly Korda by two strokes after the third round of the LOTTE Championship on Friday.
The former world No 1 produced three birdies at the front nine before adding three more at the back for the day’s low score.
“I think most important thing today is like, I felt I'm really too far behind the lead,” said Ariya to herself before heading into Round 3. I feel like I can't catch anyway, so what I want to do is just be patient, do my best every shot.”
Ariya is still looking for her first win this season but the secret to fighting the windy conditions at Ko Olina was having more confidence in her club selection.
“Today I feel like I trusted my decisions more, because it's pretty windy and there were a lot of thing going on. Last few day, especially yesterday when it's windy, I'm feel like I'm not really trust the shot I pick,” the Thai added. “Today I feel like, you know what? I'm just going to do every shot my best and trust my decision.”
Brooke Henderson started the day two shots off the lead but shot a 3-under-par 67 to tie for the lead with Nelly Korda, who shot a 1-under 71 on Friday at the 2019 LOTTE Championship. This is Henderson’s seventh start where she has held the lead or a share of the lead after 54 holes; she has gone on to win four of those events when she’s held the top spot going into the final round, including her win at last year’s LOTTE Championship.
Minjee Lee headed into the third round four shots behind the lead but her third-round 2-under 70 now puts her in third place with Republic of Korea’s Eun-hee Ji, who fell from the top spot after shooting a 2-over-par 72 but still finds herself in contention.
Ariya Jutanugarn produced a stellar round and carded a bogey-free 6-under 66; she is currently two strokes back in solo fifth place.
BROOKE HENDERSON LOOKING FORWARD TO FINAL ROUND
Defending champion Brooke Henderson, carded six birdies and bookend bogeys on No. 2 and No. 18 for her third-round 69 to finish with a one stroke advantage over the field. This is a familiar position for the seven-time LPGA champion, who also held the lead going into the final round at last year’s event—but this year, she enters the final round going head-to-head with Nelly Korda, who’s already won on Tour this season.
“It was really windy today. Really had to stay patient,” said Henderson who started the day four shots behind the lead. “I kind of fought through my front nine a little bit. Bogeyed the second hole I guess, but made a birdie on 5. Hitting good shots; just not really making birdies.”
If Henderson goes on to win tomorrow, that would be the second time she successfully defended her title—she was the 2015 and 2016 champion of the Cambia Portland Classic. If she claims her eighth career victory at Ko Olina tomorrow, she would also tie the record for most victories on the LPGA or PGA Tour by a Canadian, joining Sandra Post, Mike Weir and George Knudson.
“The back nine I made a lot of birdies, which was a lot of fun. Couple saves for par, too. Would've been nice to finish 18 with a par, but I'm excited to have moved up a little bit today. Just looking forward to tomorrow.”
NELLY KORDA NOT A HAPPY CAMPER
“Was a bit of a frustrating day on the front nine. Was not hitting it well. I was not putting well at all. Kind of got it back on the back nine,” said Korda after turning in a 71 on Friday. She started the day with a birdie on her first hole with two bogeys on the front nine, came back with birdies on alternating hole on Nos. 12-16 but ended the day with a bogey on the 18th. “Yeah, it was pretty frustrating today. Wasn't the happiest camper out there.”
Korda is looking for her second win on the LPGA Tour in 2019, she won the ISPS Handa Women’s Australian Open earlier this season, where she also was in the lead position heading into the final round.
“I'm happy to be in that spot. Brooke is play well. Everyone is playing well out here. It's going to be hard, so I am just going to take it shot by shot. We're all going to be fighting really hard for it,” said Korda.
MINJEE LEE CARDS BOGEY-FREE ROUND WITH A SINGLE EAGLE
“It was pretty steady. I mean, I didn't really make any birdies. I just made one eagle, chip-in eagle,” said Minjee Lee after turning in a bogey-free scorecard on Friday. She chipped in for eagle on the par-5 fifth and placed herself well within contention going into the final round.
“Yeah, that was awesome,” said Lee of her eagle. “I mean, it was pretty hard out there. The wind was really gusty and the pin placements were pretty hard for the wind direction we had.”
Windy conditions on the island are to be expected by the players, but nevertheless make club selection a challenge on every hole.
“I think, a few I hit it too long, like I clubbed too much,” said Lee who hit five of 14 fairways and 14 of 18 greens in Round 3. “Yeah, maybe tomorrow I can adjust and hopefully improve on that.”