WASHINGTON: US teen rookie Nelly Korda, the daughter of retired Czech tennis star Petr Korda, fired a five-under par 66 to seize a two-stroke lead after Saturday’s third round of the LPGA Marathon Classic.
Korda, who turns 19 next Friday, birdied four of the first seven holes and closed with birdies at the par-5 17th and 18th to stand on 15-under 198 after 54 holes at Highland Meadows Golf Club in Sylvania, Ohio.
“There’s still 18 more holes and a lot of golf left to be played, so I’m just going to stay patient and see how it goes,” Korda said.
“When you end on a birdie, you’re just really excited to play the next day and get it going, so I’m definitely excited.”
Korda, whose older sister Jessica is also on the circuit, seeks her first LPGA title. The world number 87’s best finish in 14 LPGA starts this year was a share of fifth in January’s season-opening Bahamas LPGA Classic.
“Not really going to think about it too much,” Korda said about playing in the final pairing. “I’m not going to get ahead of myself. I’ve done that a couple times this year and I’m just going to take it shot by shot.”
Starting the day one stroke off the lead after a second-round 64, Korda birdied the third hole and ran off three birdies in a row ending at the par-5 seventh. She closed the front nine with her lone bogey but finished with back-to-back birdies to seize the lead.
“It’s a new position. I’m excited,” Korda said of her first lead entering an LPGA final round. “My mentality hasn’t changed. It’s the same as the first two days. I just try to take it shot by shot.”
Petr Korda reached as high as second in the world rankings and won the 1998 Australian Open title before retiring in 1999 while Jessica Korda, 24, has won four LPGA titles, most recently in Malaysia in 2015.
South Korea’s 28th-ranked Kim In-Kyung, who captured her fifth career LPGA title at last month’s ShopRite Classic, fired a 68 to stand second on 200.
Newly crowned US Women’s Open champion Park Sung-Hyun fired a 67 to finish in a pack sharing third on 201 that included India’s Aditi Ashok, Taiwan’s Chien Pei-Yun and Americans Gerina Piller, Sandra Changkija and Lexi Thompson.
“There are so many good young players out here on Tour that I don’t even feel like I’m 18,” Korda said. “But it’s really cool.”
Ashok, who added the tournament to her schedule at the last minute in a bid to qualify for the Women’s British Open in two weeks in Scotland, fired a 68.
“This is my first time being in contention on the LPGA, but I’m assuming it’s pretty much the same every tournament you’re in contention,” Ashok said. “I’ve won a couple times on the European Tour, so I’m going to hope that experience helps tomorrow.”
Taiwan’s rookie Chien, ranked 266th in the world, does not have a top-10 finish this season and has missed the cut in 10 of her 16 prior LPGA starts this year.
“If I won I’d be very happy,” she said. “It’s very important because I play a lot of golf, trying to get qualified, the LPGA is pretty tough... Everybody is very hungry, very strong. I’m very lucky top 10.”
Piller, chasing her first LPGA title, fired a 70 to fall back. She has four runner-up showings in 34 career top-10 finishes.