The race to the 2021 finish line has begun, and 18 holes remain until a Race to the CME Globe is crowned. Rolex Rankings No. 1 Nelly Korda is joined by defending champion Jin Young Ko along with 2021 LPGA Tour winners Nasa Hataoka and Celine Boutier in a tie for first after the third round of the CME Group Tour Championship on -14.
Hataoka recorded the lowest score of the four, an 8-under 64, her second-lowest 18-hole score of the season. Ko recorded seven-straight birdies on Nos. 2-8, only to end her streak with a bogey on No. 9. She went on to par her back-nine holes to finish the day with a 6-under 66, as she looks for her fifth win of the season.
“I was feeling I can make every putt on front nine. I had great round, but I had a lot of good shot, good putt on front nine, but I had a lot of miss shot for back nine,” said Ko. “But it's pretty good, and I shooting better than yesterday, so it was fine.”
Korda’s 5-under 67 was highlighted by an eagle on the 17th hole. “I struck my driver really well and then I just had like 145 over the bunker and I hit like a little controlled 9-iron,” said Korda, who also posted five birdies and two bogeys. “It was so downwind and I hit it perfectly.”
Boutier, who slept on the 36-hole lead, carded a single birdie on the front-nine and after bogeys on Nos. 12 and 16 rebounded with a birdie on No. 17 to stay even on the day. “Even though I've been in this position before I've only won twice on tour, and there are so many good players in the stretch,” said Boutier, who could become the winningest Frenchwoman in LPGA Tour history with a victory on Sunday. “So I just feel like I just, again, have to keep focusing on my game and try to get as confident as I can in my putting tomorrow and see what happens.”
Gaby Lopez and Mina Harigae both shot 3-under 69s to sit at -13 in a tie for fifth. Lopez was tied for the lead until a double bogey on 16, but cancelled it with an eagle on the next hole. A closing bogey still put her in contention for her third-career victory and one step closer to the $1.5 million winner’s check.
“I had just terrible swing on 16 and that got me in trouble. I took a double bogey out of there, and I was still calm after that. I know I was hitting the right shots and I was playing the way I wanted. I came to 17 and I hit a beautiful drive, beautiful 5-iron, and it happened to go in,” said Lopez. “You know, I tried to stay calm all day long. I tried to stay calm throughout the tournament. Sometimes when I bring this emotion I just can't stop it.”
“I feel that I dragged it into 18. It was hard to keep it together. But at the same time, it's something that I love from my game, something I embrace so much. I'm sure that I'm going to learn from it. I know I'm going to have the discipline next time to calm down. But it's exciting. I love this position. I love to see myself grow.”
Leona Maguire, Nanna Koerstz Madsen and 2018 champion Lexi Thompson are tied for seventh at -12, with Megan Khang and major champions Jeongeun Lee6 and Minjee Lee all tied for 10th at -11. In total, 12 players are within three of the lead.