Golf: Lydia Ko leads at Gainbridge, Saso tied for 4th

Field Level Media/Reuters

Posted at Jan 30 2022 09:37 AM

Lydia Ko of New Zealand hits from the 16th tee during the third round of the 2022 Gainbridge LPGA at Boca Rio Golf Club on January 29, 2022 in Boca Raton, Florida. Douglas P. DeFelice, Getty Images/AFP.
Lydia Ko of New Zealand hits from the 16th tee during the third round of the 2022 Gainbridge LPGA at Boca Rio Golf Club on January 29, 2022 in Boca Raton, Florida. Douglas P. DeFelice, Getty Images/AFP.


Lydia Ko shot an even-par 72 in chilly, windy conditions on Saturday to hold a two-shot lead after three rounds of the Gainbridge LPGA at Boca Raton, Fla.

On a day in which just one of 74 golfers shot under 70 at Boca Rio Golf Club, Ko sidestepped trouble. Ko's 11-under 205 leads American Danielle Kang, who shot 74 after being the co-leader with Ko entering the day.

France's Celine Boutier is in third at 8 under after the stellar 69 on a blustery day in which wind gusts reached 40 mph and temperatures were in the 40s. England's Charley Hull (71 on Saturday) and Japan's Yuka Saso (72) are tied for fourth at 7 under.

Ko had one birdie and one bogey in the third round to put her in position to win her 17th career title.

"Going into today, I knew that it was going to be pretty difficult," Ko said. "Playing in the wind, any sort of temperature, makes it a lot tougher, and I knew that today was going to be a little bit more of a grind. You have to be more focused and move on when you do make mistakes.

"Finishing with pars the last couple holes, I got away with it there. To finish even par after a tough day, I think it was a solid day in the office."

Kang had two birdies and four bogeys. But she struggled on the back nine with bogeys at Nos. 10, 14 and 15.

Kang won the Tournament of Champions last week and has a chance to make it two straight triumphs despite her struggles.

"I just need to keep trusting my game," Kang said. "I'm going to go putt a little bit and hope that tomorrow I could just play some good golf and be entertaining for a lot of people."

Boutier seemed largely unaffected by the conditions during her second consecutive bogey-free round.

She scored birdies on Nos. 1, 12 and 16 and was one of just five golfers to shoot under par.

"I just feel like it was not playing easy for sure, but I just feel like I was able to hit the shots I wanted to do," Boutier said. "And then my putting under 10 feet was really good, so it saved me a lot of pars and helped me make a few birdies. It was just a really solid day from start to finish."

Hull overcame a rough start to also post a below-par score.

She had four bogeys on a six-hole stretch of the front nine to fall to 4 under. But she got her game in order and had birdies on 9, 11 and 18. She had five birdies on the day.

Saso delivered three birdies and three bogeys. One of the birdies came on 18 to move her four shots off the pace.

Japan's Nasa Hataoka shot 1-over 73 and is in sixth place at 5 under. Tied for seventh at 4 under are Japan's Ayaka Furue (71), American Stacy Lewis (72) and South Korea's Hye-Jin Choi (73).

Seven golfers are tied for 10th at 3-under 213, including American Lexi Thompson (73) and Canada's Brooke Henderson (74).

"Definitely not used to the cold and wind," said Thompson, a Floridian. "It was different. I know it's supposed to be extremely cold tomorrow; maybe a little bit less wind.

"Can't do much about the weather, so just got to take it with a positive attitude and go into it as strong as you possibly can."

World No. 1 Nelly Korda struggled to a 76 and is tied for 23rd at even-par 216. Korda had one birdie and five bogeys. Four of her bogeys were on the front nine.

Sweden's Anna Nordqvist also is at even par but joined Boutier in having the day's only other bogey-free round. Nordqvist made one birdie while shooting 71.