Canada’s Brooke Henderson finished strong to card a 2-under-par 69 on Saturday and claim a one-stroke lead over the field through three rounds of the Marathon Classic in Sylvania, Ohio.
Henderson, who began the day tied with Sweden’s Caroline Hedwall for the lead at 9 under, tallied five birdies and three bogeys in an up-and-down round to reach 11-under 202 for the tournament.
Angela Stanford, who equaled the low round of the day with a 65, and Brittany Lincicome share second place at 10 under. Jacqui Concolino holds fourth place alone another stroke back.
Eleven players are tied for fifth place at 8 under, including world No. 7 and defending champion I.K. Kim. Another five players are at 7 under, and a total of 29 players are within five strokes of the lead.
Henderson started fast with a birdie at No. 2 and three more from Nos. 6 to 9, but bogeys at No. 3 and No. 8 limited how much she could expand her lead. She played the first seven holes of the back nine at 1 over before birdieing the par-5 17th.
“This week, things have been clicking for me a little bit better than normal,” she said after her round. “I’m just excited to see my name at the top of the leaderboard. I would have liked to have played a little better today, but I’m happy to still be in the top spot and hopefully make a lot of birdies tomorrow.”
Henderson has a share of the lead entering the final round for the fifth time in her career, and the 20-year-old has converted three of the previous four opportunities into victories. That includes the LOTTE Championship in April, when she shot 3-under 69 in the final round to win by four strokes for her first title of the year and sixth of her career.
With a crowded leaderboard behind her, Henderson expects plenty of competition for the top spot on Sunday.
“Hopefully my putter is really hot tomorrow,” she said. “It’s going to take a really good score to win.”
With her current trajectory, Stanford will be one of those in contention, as she has engineered back-to-back 65s after an opening-round 73. She totaled 14 birdies over the last two days, including three in a row to open her round Saturday and one to close it at the 18th.
Lincicome is also trending up, birdieing the 16th and 17th on Saturday to shoot 67, after consecutive rounds of 68 to start the tournament. She managed just a lone bogey on the tricky Highland Meadows course in Round 3.
“It was a little squirrelly there for a minute,” Lincicome acknowledged when asked about her ball-striking after the round. “This course is sneaky tight. I don’t get to hit many drivers, but even the 3-woods and the hybrids off the tee, you have to keep it in play. And there’s a few holes out there that I just pray you get through with a par and then you try to birdie the others.”
Lincicome, who is seeking her ninth career title, was asked if this week’s course is helping her prepare to play on the PGA Tour in next week’s Barbasol Championship.
“Absolutely not,” she told the Golf Channel with a laugh. “I think I only get to hit three drivers out here. You definitely have to keep it straight and in play. So, if anything I’m definitely working on consistency and hitting my 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.”
Concolino birdied the 18th to shoot 69, while Ecuador’s Daniela Darquea joined the group at 8 under with a 66 despite a double bogey at the seventh. After seven birdies in Round 3 — in which she shot a tournament-low 64 — Darquea has 14 birdies in the past two days, along with an eagle on an ace at the sixth hole Friday.
Thailand’s P.K. Kongkraphan and Englishwomen Mel Reid and Charley Hull equaled Stanford for the low round of the day, though all three still have work to do. Reid is at 7 under, while Kongkraphan and Hull are at 6 under.
Hedwall is also at 6 under after a rough day, as she was 4 over through 17 holes before a birdie at the 18th. That was her lone birdie of the day after she collected 14 through the first two rounds.
—Field Level Media