CAMBRIDGE, Ont. – Although Lexi Thompson had never played Whistle Bear Golf Club before this week, she’s proving she’s a quick learner.
The 22-year-old is looking to become the LPGA Tour’s first multi-time winner in 2017 as she leads the Manulife LPGA Classic by one over Lindy Duncan heading into Sunday’s finale.
With blustery winds impacting the golfers all day Saturday, Thompson managed to play steady. She shot a bogey free 5-under-par 67 and moved into first place alone.
“Today was a lot windier than the last two days, so there was just more shot-making and some pins were pretty difficult to get to. It was more just making pars and getting off the hole,” she said. “I'm playing very well and making some good putts, so hopefully just continue that tomorrow.”
Thompson made three birdies on her front nine and put an exclamation point on a great day with a birdie on the par-4 18th. This, despite the fact the wind forced her to change her approach slightly.
“There were a few different clubs, but more just different lines and just committing to them,” she explained. “There are a lot of crosswinds you have to same way right or way left and just trust that it'll come back into the fairway - and hopefully stay in the fairway.”
Thompson was paired with Canadian Alena Sharp, and she said it was great to play with someone the Canadian faithful adored.
“Hearing the cheers is always nice,” said Thompson. “The fans are great out here, so hopefully get a lot more tomorrow.”
Paired with Thompson in Sunday’s final pairing will be Duke University alum Lindy Duncan.
Duncan matched Thompson’s 5-under total Saturday, and although her best finish on the season is just a tie for 16th, she’s trending the right direction. She doesn’t plan on changing her approach as she heads into unfamiliar territory on Sunday: the last group on the last day of an LPGA Tour event.
“I’m just going to do the same thing I’ve been doing: eat dinner and go to bed early,” Duncan said with a smile as she admitted what her plan was for Saturday night.
Duncan explained she had been hitting her driver well, along with putting well the last three days.
“The golf course suits my eye,” she said.
Jackie Stoelting had the round of the day Saturday firing an 8-under-par 64 with 10 birdies. She went out early and managed to take advantage of the more benign conditions as the winds picked up in the afternoon. She sits tied for ninth at 12-under par going into Sunday.
“It was an awesome day,” said Stoelting. “This was my fourth (made) cut in a row, but the last three cuts I’ve moved the opposite direction on Saturday. I really tried to play more aggressively today.
Defending champion Caroline Masson, who finished at 7-under-par through Saturday, used an 8-iron on the par-3 17th to make an ace. It was her second-ever hole in one and her first in tournament competition. She nearly missed seeing it go in as she was leaving the tee box, but she was happy to notch one in front of her Mom, who was on site today to watch.
“It was fun. I didn’t have a lot going for me today, no putts went in,” she admitted. “I hit it good, kind of where I wanted to, and watched it release a little bit as we started walking and it disappeared. I’m glad we saw it disappear.”
Of the three Canadians who made the cut, Alena Sharp leads the way at 14-under and tied for fourth. She shot a 2-under-par 70 Saturday.
Brooke Henderson is tied for 14th at 10-under par, and full-time Epson Tour member Brittany Marchand is tied for ninth.
Marchand, who grew up playing golf less than an hour from Whistle Bear, is relishing the opportunity.
“I'm just trying to have fun,” said Marchand. “I think that helps, because if I just enjoy every moment then I don't think about what the outcome can be.”
In Gee Chun, who already has three runner-up finishes on the season, is in third-place alone, just two shots back of the lead.