Defending champion Nelly Korda curled in an eagle putt at the 18th hole on Saturday to grab a one-shot lead over Jennifer Kupcho heading into the final round of the Meijer LPGA Classic in Michigan.
Former world No 1 Korda started the day two off Kupcho’s lead and carded a six-under-par 66 that featured two eagles to edge ahead on 18-under par 198.
Kupcho had four birdies and a bogey in her three-under 68 at Blythefield Country Club near Grand Rapids, and on 199 was two strokes in front of Canadian Brooke Henderson, who carded a bogey-free five-under 67 for 201.
Korda, playing her second tournament since a blood clot in her left arm caused her to miss four months, applied some early pressure on Kupcho with a birdie at the 7th and an eagle at the 8th.
She added another birdie at the 12th, but after a bogey at 13 she was still two shots behind Kupcho, who had picked up strokes with birdies at the 4th, 8th and 10th.
But after Korda birdied 14 and Kupcho bogeyed 17 they arrived at the par-five 18th tied.
Korda, who had come up short with a birdie putt at 17, didn’t make the same mistake and was rewarded by a massive cheer from the gallery.
“Oh my gosh, that was the loudest roar I’ve heard in a long time,” said Korda, who followed her Meijer win last year with a victory in the Women’s PA Championship that vaulted her to No 1 in the world.
“It actually kind of gave me goosebumps,” she said. “I had a left-to-righter on 17 and I didn’t play high enough. I had a left-to-righter again so I told myself that I was going to play it up enough.
“It just barely went in, and it was perfect.”
Korda said it was “super special” to be in the hunt in her second event back since her health scare. She said in April that she’d had surgery for a blood clot in her subclavian vein in her left arm.
She had revealed the clot diagnosis in March.
“I worked really hard just to be out here, which obviously is really rewarding,” she said. “But we still have 18 more holes to go. I know everyone that’s in contention is going to give it a good go.”
In addition to Kupcho, who made her first LPGA title a major when she won the Chevron Championship in April, Korda has plenty of proven winners chasing her.
Canadian star Brooke Henderson, coming off a victory in the ShopRite Classic last week, grabbed four of her five birdies on the back nine for solo third.
Major-winner Lexi Thompson posted a four-under-par 68 for fourth place on 202.
Former world No 1 Lydia Ko of New Zealand matched the low round of the day with a seven-under 65 to share fifth on 202 with Australian Minjee Lee, who carded a 66.
© Agence France-Presse