Two big-hitting, birdie machines will square off in the final pairing Sunday at the Marathon Classic.
Sei Young Kim and Lexi Thompson pulled away from the pack in the third round, setting up a head-to-head showdown that could feel like match play, if they pick up where they left off on Saturday.
Kim closed with four birdies over the final seven holes to shoot 5-under-par 66 and take sole possession of the lead at 16 under. She’ll be playing the final round with Thompson, who eagled the 18th to shoot 65. Thompson trails Kim by one shot.
Jeongeun Lee6 is the next closest player to Kim at four shots back.
Kim and Thompson took turns with the lead Saturday while combining to make 12 birdies and an eagle.
“I’m excited to play with Lexi,” Kim said. “She’s a long driver and a great player.”
Thompson said she won’t get caught up thinking in terms of match play.
“Honestly, I’m not really thinking about any other players,” Thompson said. “It’s hard, because you’re playing with them, and then there are leaderboards, but I try not to look at any leaderboards. I’ve just been trying to focus my game, my attitude, just everything I can control.
“I can’t do anything about what they’re doing. I can just control my game. If I make the birdies, great. Put the pressure on them. If I don’t, it’s golf. It’s not my life.”
Kim, 26, may be the best player in the women’s game who hasn’t won a major.
She’s an eight-time LPGA winner who had five Korean LPGA victories before joining the American-based tour as a 22-year-old. She’s 0-for-25 in the majors, but she has eight top-10 finishes in them, including runner-up finishes in the 2015 KPMG Women’s PGA Championship and last year’s Evian Championship. This is Kim’s last start before she heads to France to play the Evian again.
Kim is pretty good with a lead. She has won four of the last seven times she has led or shared the lead going into the final round of an LPGA event.
Thompson, 24, is looking for her 12th LPGA title, and, like Kim, her second this year. Thompson’s ball striking has been impressive all week. She has hit 17 greens in regulation each of the first three rounds.
At the last on Saturday, Thompson reached the green with a 6-iron and rolled in a 20-foot putt for eagle. She’s making a habit of making eagles at the last this year. She eagled the last hole in the final round to win the ShopRite Classic last month.