SYLVANIA, Ohio —
Windy course conditions plus musical chairs on the leaderboard under Friday and Saturday’s leader equaled one picture-perfect finish heading into Sunday for the final round of the Marathon Classic.
Twelve mile per hour winds failed to lessen Friday’s leader Sei Young Kim’s score of -12 — it actually increased it. Despite the swirling winds at Highland Meadows golf course, yesterday’s top-six only blew in a shuffled manner with a few changed positions.
Walking up the hill on the No. 18 fairway, Lexi Thompson’s placed herself in position to secure a spot just under Kim on the leaderboard. An eagle on the final hole cemented her in second place, a notch up from her tied-for-third finish yesterday afternoon.
“Well, I would say it was very needed,” Thompson said honestly of her eagle putt. “I don't know what position I was at, but it was needed. I missed a few coming in, so those were needed as well.”
Her round began with a bogey on the first hole. Removed from that hiccup, Thompson went on to birdie five of the final eight holes on the front-nine. Recording par on holes 10-17 and the eagle on 18 ensured the best score of the day at -7.
Following this afternoon’s round, Kim still holds the lead and four birdies on holes 12-17 is much of the reason why.
“I'm very happy with 5-under today,” Kim told reporters. “t was a little tough to judge the distance. I mean, wind very gusting, on and off. (On) back nine I got a lot of birdie chance[s] and then I make the four birdie.”
Kim and Thompson will be paired together for the final round tomorrow, as they are one and two on the leaderboard respectively. That experience of playing with Thompson will be a surreal one for Kim.
“Tomorrow I play with -- pairing with Lexi Thompson, one of my favorite players,” she said happily. “Yeah, I'm very exciting play with her.”
South Korea’s Jeonguen Lee traded spots on the leaderboard with Thompson, falling to third place and four-strokes from the lead. Bogeys on holes five and 10, as well as only hitting 8 of 14 fairways and 11 of 18 greens led to her -1 performance. Birdies on holes 16 and 18 kept her from being -10 and far removed from potentially winning on Sunday.
“Today my tee shot was not very good, especially my iron shots,” Lee said through a translator. “It was so hard to control my shots, and so, yeah, there weren't a lot of birdies today.”
Toledo-born Stacy Lewis headlines a three-way tie for fourth place at -11. Three bogeys on holes 5-11 ultimately led to her position of being five strokes off the lead. A well skilled birdie on hole-nine, arguably the toughest hole of the day, saved her score.
“I like it drivable, it's actually a very hard tee shot because if you go a little left there is out of bounds right there and you see a lot of people in those trees up there,” Lewis said when describing hole nine. “The right is no gimme up and down. The window to hit that tee shot is about ten yards. It's really good risk-reward hole I think.
“I do,” she said when asked if she felt she was within striking distance of the lead. “As long as it stays windy and the golf course keeps playing hard I think there is a good round out there. I feel like I'm getting really close. I did a good job hanging in there today. I thought it played pretty tough.
“Just keep inching a little closer to playing some really good golf. That's all you can do.”
Jennifer Kupcho, who shot a season-best 66 yesterday and was paired with Lewis today, played inconsistent but still finished the day -2 and tied for fourth place.
“It was good. I definitely struggled a little bit the beginning with tee shots,” Kupcho told reporters when describing the round. I got the groove going at the end. I just missed a couple putts.”
A weekend best score from Spain’s Carlota Ciganda has her tied with USA’s Lewis and Kupcho. She was just inches away on multiple holes from being in contention with Thompson and Kim.
“It was tough out there today. It was quite windy in the afternoon,” she told reporters. “The fairways are a little more firm. Wind was just swirling a lot. It was tough to hit good shots.”
Columbia’s Mariajo Uribe and the world’s No.3 ranked golfer Minjee Lee coincided with Thompson for the best score of the day at -6.
Heading into Sunday’s final round, a purse of $1.75 million is on the line, with the winner taking home $262,500. Kim and Thompson, the two top contenders for the championship tee-off 1:20 p.m. Tomorrow’s round will begin with an opening tee-off of 7:00 a.m.