BELMONT, Mich. (AP) — Defending champion Nelly Korda made a 22-foot eagle putt on the par-5 18th for a 6-under 66 and the third-round lead Saturday in the LPGA Meijer Classic, with six majors champions topping the leaderboard.
Making her second start since returning from a four-month break because of a blood clot in her left arm, Korda also eagled the par-5 eighth and had three birdies and a bogey. She was at 18-under 198 at Blythefield Country Club.
“I’m just happy to be out there playing again,” Korda said. “I’m in contention, but, again, I’ve been in this position before. Thankfully, I can lean on that.”
Jennifer Kupcho, two strokes ahead of playing partner Korda entering the day, had a 69 to drop a shot back. She rebounded from her first bogey of the week — on the par-4 17th — with a two-putt birdie on 18.
“I wasn’t playing as well as I thought I should,” Kupcho said. “I think after a little bit of a rough start, missed a couple fairways, I kind of set a goal for myself to shoot 3 under and I did do that. So glad to have done that.”
The second-ranked Korda tied for eighth two weeks ago in the U.S. Women’s Open in her first event since early February. She also is the defending champion next week in the KPGA Women’s PGA at Congressional.
“I knew that I had enough practice under my belt and it was just more of like, `Can I put that into tournament golf kind of play,’” Korda said. “So far, I’ve played pretty well and hopefully I can continue.”
Kupcho won the major tournament at Mission Hills in the California desert in early April for her first LPGA Tour victory.
“The whole top of the leaderboard are all good players,” Kupcho said. “Anything can happen. Anything can happen on the back nine. There is a couple reachable par 5s.”
Brooke Henderson, the ShopRite LPGA Classic winner Sunday in New Jersey and 2017 and 2019 champion at Blythefield, was third at 15 under after a 67.
“Wasn’t my best day out there, but still shot minus 5 and still not too far away from the top,” Henderson said. “So, looking forward to tomorrow.”
Lexi Thompson, the 2015 winner, had a 68 to get to 14 under.
“I play this golf course pretty aggressively,” Thompson said.” Hit a lot of drivers, take a lot of corners on. So, probably not play any more aggressively, except maybe fire at a few more pins. All depends on pin locations, too.”
Play the same way I have been and maybe roll a few putts.
Minjee Lee, the U.S. Women’s Open winner, shot a 66 to join Lydia Ko (65) at 13 under.
Following the six major champions, Atthaya Thitikul (67) and Madelene Sagstrom (70) were tied for seventh at 12 under.