Minjee Lee’s quest for a third straight strokeplay title remains alive although she will need to come from five back at the Meijer LPGA Classic in Grand Rapids, Michigan.
In just her second start back from a blood clot scare, American Nelly Korda (66, 18-under) has a one-stroke lead at Blythefield Country Club from Chevron Championship winner Jennifer Kupcho (69) with last-start winner Brooke Henderson two shots further back in third at 15-under.
Lee (66) is in a tie for fifth with good friend Lydia Ko (65) at 13-under as she seeks to add to her recent victories at the US Women’s Open and Cognizant Founders Cup.
Not since Ariya Jutanugarn in 2016 has a player won three consecutive scheduled tournaments on the LPGA Tour and although Lee can’t match that feat, three strokeplay wins in succession would be a remarkable achievement.
She missed advancing from the group stage at the Bank of Hope LPGA Match Play and skipped last week’s ShopRite LPGA Classic and says that regularly contending will hold her in good stead on Sunday.
“The better the competition the better you will become,” said Lee, who currently leads the Race to CME Globe standings.
“The more times you put yourself in that position and try and contend with the best you’re only going to build confidence.”
Calmer conditions opened the door to low scores on Saturday and Lee let few opportunities go to waste.
Her first birdie came at the par-5 fourth and she followed it with three on the trot from the par-4 sixth.
A lone bogey at 13 was wedged between birdies at 12 and 13, rounding out her best round for the week with her seventh birdie of the day at 18.
“I just holed some really nice putts,” Lee added.
“I don’t think I hit any super, super close but they were about 10 to 15 feet and it was just nice to see them rolling in.
“Today was nowhere near as windy so I could be a little more aggressive. It’s quite difficult putting in the wind so I was able to pick good lines and trust that it was going to go there. That played a big part in my lower scoring today.”
Now a two-time major winner, Lee has designs on completing the career grand slam and intends to use another strong showing this week as a momentum builder towards next week’s KPMG Women’s PGA Championship at Congressional Country Club.
Like Lee, Grace Kim is riding a hot hand at present on the secondary Epson Tour.
Seeking her second win of the season, Kim shot an even-par 72 in the final round of the Ann Arbor’s Road to the LPGA at Travis Pointe Country Club.
Kim finished five back of champion Kiira Riihijarvi at five-under par, her tie for fifth projected to elevate her to second in the Race for the Card standings.
Gabi Ruffels is within reach of one of those 10 cards to the LPGA Tour after finishing tied for eighth with a closing four-under 68 while Karis Davidson (70) earned a share of 20th position.
West Australian Whitney Hillier is also enjoying a strong start to the Ladies European Tour season, finishing tied for fifth at the Aramco Team Series – London.
Runner-up at the Jabra Ladies Open and tied for eighth at the Aramco Team Series – Bangkok, Hillier finished birdie-birdie at Centurion Club to rise to ninth in the Race to Costa del Sol standings.