Jessica Korda came from seven-strokes back of the lead on Saturday to tie Minjee Lee at the top heading into the final round of the Blue Bay LPGA. Korda posted a bogey-free, six-under par 66 to eliminate the six-stroke lead with which 36-hole leader Minjee Lee held to start the day. The pair leads at 11-under par, two-strokes ahead of Ariya Jutanugarn in solo third at nine-under par.

Lee was unable to protect the six-stroke lead she held heading into moving day and carded a one-over par, 73. The Aussie went in the wrong direction early, making bogey at the par four, second hole with two more dropped shots at the 11th and 12th holes, both of which Korda was able to birdie. 

“12 in general is a really hard hole. You have to land it perfectly at the top to have any shot at that pin staying on the back of the green. It's really wet back there so you don't want to have to chip up. It's not an easy chip. So I was just really happy to be on the green to be honest with you and have some type of putt at it,” Korda said about the par four, 12th hole. “And being able to birdie it, if that's what my reaction was -- I looked up and down and excited -- it was more like a surprise and it was a good surprise. Like I said, it's a really hard hole and a really hard pin, so you're thinking par is going to be a great score, and the fact that I actually made birdie I'm like, oh, wow, cool, that's great.”

Lee struggled to get any putts to drop throughout the round and opened the door for Korda who recorded five birdies in a six-hole stretch to tie her at 10-under par. At the par five, 18th Korda picked up her sixth birdie of the day to take a one-stroke lead ahead of Lee, who responded by also making birdie at the last to finish in a share of the lead.

“It wasn't windy. It wasn't that windy today, so I guess you could be a bit more aggressive at the pins. I mean, I wasn't striking it that well, so I think I just got by, making up-and-down,” Lee told the media. “Yeah, tomorrow is another day, so you never know.”

There’s something about playing in Asia that brings out the American’s best golf. Korda’s last win on Tour came 12-months ago at the Sime Darby LPGA Malaysia, where she will defend her title next week, and last held the 54-hole lead on Tour. She has four more top-5 finishes in events throughout Asia including a share of third at the 2014 playing of the Blue Bay LPGA when the event was shortened to 54-holes due to weather.

Saturday, Jutanugarn recorded the low round of the day with a seven-under par, 65 to climb from a share of 10th into third heading into the final round. In what has been a popular decision for the long-hitter this season, Jutanugarn kept driver out of the bag, opting instead to go with 3-wood or 2-iron off the tee. The strategy paid off for Jutanugarn at the RICOH Women’s British Open in July where she won her first major title and the decision proved to be a wise one on Saturday with Jutanugarn hitting 13 of 14 fairways.

“This course, you have to be really patient. I think today I maintained my like emotion to be patient, so I just hit like hit my tee shot good,” Jutanugarn told the media. “I just be like waiting for birdies, not really rushing trying to make birdies. Just trying to have fun.”

A five-time winner this season, the world No.2 held the 54-hole lead in each of her victories this season. Trailing by two-strokes, Jutanugarn will try to capture her first come from behind victory on Sunday and become the first, six-time winner in a single season since Inbee Park in 2013. Jutanugarn also holds a narrow four-point lead ahead of Lydia Ko in the Rolex Player of the Year points standing and with a victory on Sunday Jutanugarn would move closer to achieving what she says is now her biggest remaining goal of the season. Ko is not in the field this week.

“Yeah, I think it's really important because like the Rolex Player of the Year Award, it's really an honor to win that one, and I think whoever wins really deserves it, because it's really the hardest one to win. And of course I want to win when I have a chance.”

 

Click here for complete scores from the third round of the Blue Bay LPGA.

 

Written By: Amy Rogers

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