Katherine Kirk managed to ride her hot play from Friday into Saturday’s third round, and after a 7-under-par 65, she now leads the Thornberry Creek LPGA Classic by four and is that much closer to her third LPGA Tour victory.
Kirk, who made nine birdies Saturday, admitted after the third round that she was trending in the right direction.
“I like this golf course. It suits my eye, and I think it's going to take another low one tomorrow,” she stated. “I said to my caddie, ‘I feel like 4-under is about even par out there just because you get so many good birdie opportunities and a lot of wedges into holes, a couple reachable par-5s.’ I'll be trying to get a couple under my belt early just to kind of give me some breathing room. A lot of golf still to be played.”
Kirk’s four-shot cushion is over Ashleigh Buhai, who is looking for her first LPGA TOUR victory. She fired a career-low round Saturday, a 7-under-par 65, and managed to bounce back from a bogey on her opening hole to steady the ship.
“I hit the ball really solid. I made a bogey on my first hole, and after that I hit 17 greens in a row. I just kind of favored to the side of the pin that you had to, and I rolled in a few 15-footers. I was cautious at some times, and then I knew when I could be aggressive,” Buahi said of her round.
Buhai will be in the final pairing Sunday for the first time in her LPGA Tour career, and said her nerves will be steadied by the fact she knows Kirk very well. She’s also a multi-time winner on the Ladies European Tour and won already in 2017 on the Sunshine Tour.
“There's always going to be nerves when you're trying to win a golf tournament or in a final group no matter where you're playing. But I've known Katherine for a long time, so I think it'll be good for us being in familiar company, and I think we have a similar game. I look forward to it,” she said.
Ayako Uehara of Japan and Jodi Ewart Shadoff of England are tied at 13-under par after Uehara fired a 7-under-par 65 and Shadoff was one higher, a 6-under-par 66. Shadoff, who was bogey-free Saturday, said she took advantage of some putts falling.
“It was good,” Shadoff said of her day. “I was feeling calm, relaxed, just enjoyed the round, hitting the ball well, and some putts fell in the middle of the round, so it was nice.”
Seven golfers are a shot further back at 12-under, including Cristie Kerr – already a winner on tour in 2017 – Suzann Pettersen, and Tiffany Joh, who was off early Saturday and fired a 6-under-par 66.
“To be completely honest, I was not hitting it particularly well, but I was putting really well, and apparently that counts for something in golf,” said Joh with her trademark smile. “I was able to squeak a solid round in there.”
Pettersen was bogey-free Saturday and is in the mix for her 16th LPGA Tour title.
“I played a lot better today,” said Pettersen. “It felt like I had a little ground to catch up with the leaders kind of going deep yesterday, so hopefully I won't be too far back and go out early tomorrow and try and post another low score and see where that takes me.”
Due to the threat of weather in the area again Sunday, the final round of the Thornberry Creek LPGA Classic will begin at 9:30 a.m. ET, with the groups teeing off in threesomes.