Despite a back-nine bogey that briefly opened the door to her chasers, Canadian Brooke Henderson heads into Sunday at the Marathon Classic presented by Owens Corning and O-I with a one-shot lead.
Henderson, who shot a 2-under-par 69 Saturday, is looking for her second win of the year and seventh overall, after winning the LOTTE Championship in Hawaii earlier this season.
Henderson admitted she was “disappointed” with her play Saturday, as there were a few times when she finished with just one hand on her club’s grip in her follow through.
The native of Smiths Falls, Ont. (about an hour from Ottawa, Canada’s capital city) made five birdies and three bogeys Saturday. She said overall she was in a good spot after an “up-and-down” day.
“I made some birdies but I made some bogeys. I didn't hit it how I normally hit it, so I kind of grinded it out as best I could, and that's good. That's a good sign when you can still shoot under par and not hit it very well,” she said. “Just going into tomorrow trying to get back to the way I normally strike it, and hopefully make a lot of birdies.”
Henderson said she’d be hoping for a hot putter on Sunday, as she knows the competition is strong all around her.
“I think this course, when you're hitting it really well, there are a lot of birdie opportunities. When you don't hit it so great, you're kind of fighting for pars, and I know that,” she explained. “Hopefully tomorrow I can go out and play a little bit better and give myself a lot of birdie looks.”
The 20-year-old is also looking to make some Canadian history, as the most wins by a Canadian professional golfer – male or female – is eight. If she does manage to notch a victory Sunday, she’ll be inching ever closer to that record.
Henderson has held the 54-hole lead five times in her LPGA Tour career.
Angela Stanford and Brittany Lincicome are just one shot back and tied for second, while Jacqui Concolino and Emma Talley round out the top five. They’re 9-under par and tied for fourth.
Henderson and Stanford will make up the final pairing of the day Sunday.
Lincicome near the lead
In her final event before playing on a sponsor exemption on the PGA Tour next week, Brittany Lincicome has a chance for her second victory of the year on the LPGA Tour.
The winner of the season-opening Pure Silk Bahamas LPGA Classic, fired a 4-under-par 67 Saturday to move to 10-under. She’s just one shot back of the lead held by Brooke Henderson.
She admitted the golf course this week doesn’t help her prepare for next week on the PGA Tour, as it’s “sneaky tight” and she can only hit a few drivers. Instead, she’s been able to work on her consistency and hitting her targets.
“When I do miss a few greens, it's fun to try to get it up-and-down, because I'm sure that will happen a few times next week,” she explained.
Lincicome said she’d enjoy a quiet night at her house for the week with her caddie – the plan is to make dessert and watch the film, ‘Mamma Mia’ – and not think about Sunday’s final round until she has to.
She admitted she likes being back of the lead going into the final round, which is the exact position she’s found herself in.
“I feel better to be one or two back and kind of chasing, so the pressure is on somebody else and I can kind of fly under the radar a little bit,” she said.
Kim in contention again
A year ago In-Kyung Kim came into the final round of the Marathon Classic trailing, but eventually found the winner’s circle.
She’ll look for a repeat performance this year, as Kim sits three shots back of the lead held by Brooke Henderson. Kim fired a 2-under-par 69 Saturday. She recovered after making two bogeys in her first three holes with four birdies in her next seven holes.
She said the wind wrecked havoc on her game Saturday, as she assumed the wind was going to be southwest, but in fact it blew mostly northwest through most of her front nine. She came back strong through the middle part of her round, she explained.
Kim won three times a year ago, including the RICOH Women’s British Open, but she has yet to find the winner’s circle in 2018. Her best finish of the year is a runner-up at the LPGA Volvik Championship.
Kim said as far as Sunday goes, she needs to play her own game and not force anything if she wants to make a run at the lead.
“I just have to do a little bit better every day. That's my goal,” she said. “I really had fun today. It wasn't easy for me, somehow, but I turned it around, so I'm happy for that.”
Amateur by status only
After becoming the first collegiate golfer to capture the NCAA individual title after finishing runner-up the year prior, Wake Forest’s Jennifer Kupcho earned an exemption into this week’s Marathon Classic and she’s made the most of it.
Kupcho fired a 5-under-par 66 Saturday and not only did she make the cut but she made a run up the leaderboard and is challenging for the title.
She sits tied for sixth through three rounds, thanks to a bogey-free Saturday. She said she has been hitting the ball well so far this week, and has made key putts when she needs to.
“It’s been a great week,” said Kupcho. “It's fun to be around all the pros and have all these fans out here watching us. It's just a great experience for my first LPGA event.”
Kupcho has played two U.S. Women’s Opens (in 2017, where she finished T-21, and 2016, where she missed the cut) but this week marked her first on the LPGA Tour.
She was non-committal about her future as an amateur – and whether she would return to Wake Forest for her senior year – if she happened to go on to win the tournament Sunday, saying she was just going to play her own game and would come to that decision when and if she needed to.
Kupcho said her goal for the week was to make the cut, and once she did that, she was focused on going as low as possible.
“Once I made the cut, I just was thinking about trying to double my score. Hopefully to get 6-under and now I'm 8-under,” she said. “So just going to go out there and play my best tomorrow and see what I can do.”
The last amateur to win on the LPGA Tour was Lydia Ko, who won back-to-back CP Women’s Opens in 2012 and 2013. However, before her, no amateur had won on the LPGA Tour since JoAnne Carner did it in 1969.