NAPLES, Fla. — Lexi Thompson has control of the CME Group Tour Championship, and Ariya Jutanugarn is in control of just about everything else.
Thompson’s four-under-par 68 on Saturday pushed her to 16 under after three rounds of the Tour Championship, the L.P.G.A.’s season-ending event. She maintained the three-shot lead she had through the second round, with Nelly Korda sitting alone in second place after Saturday’s round at Tiburon Golf Club. Thompson was six shots ahead of Carlota Ciganda, who had sole possession of third place. Korda shot her second consecutive 67 to get to 13 under, and Ciganda grinded out a 69.
Thompson, 25, has been nearly flawless this week. Her only dropped shot of the tournament came Saturday when she made bogey at the par-4 fourth hole, then put together five birdies over the remainder of her round.
“Golf is all about momentum,” Thompson said.
For the week, Thompson has had 14 birdies, one eagle and the one bogey. She has also been very poised, finding rhythm with an old putter and having her brother, Curtis, as her caddie.
“I just tried to keep the same attitude as I did the last two days,” Thompson said. “Curtis kept me nice and relaxed. He’s always cracking jokes out there. It’s been a nice relaxing week just having him on the bag and having all my family and friends out here supporting me.”
If Thompson hangs on Sunday, she will have her first win of the season.
If Jutanugarn keeps things together, she will leave with plenty of prizes as well.
Jutanugarn will start her final round 10 shots back but leading the projected Race to the CME Globe standings and in position to claim the $1 million bonus for winning the L.P.G.A.’s season-long points race — which would be her second in three years. Jutanugarn already has clinched player of the year, and is almost mathematically assured of winning the Vare Trophy for the lowest scoring average on tour in 2018.
“I did a pretty good job. I didn’t think about that at all,” Jutanugarn said of the Globe race and what is at stake this weekend. “Yesterday I thought about that too much, worrying about that.”
The Vare Trophy isn’t hers yet, but it would take the most improbable of outcomes for that to slip away from Jutanugarn in the final round of the season. The two closest players to Jutanugarn in the season scoring standings are Minjee Lee and Jin Young Ko; either of them would have to beat Jutanugarn, the world’s No. 1 player, by about 30 strokes on Sunday to pass her in the Vare race.
Korda had an eventful day with more birdies than pars — 8-7 — but with three bogeys in there as well. So Yeon Ru (69 for the third straight day) and Marina Alex (71) are tied for fourth at nine under, and Lydia Ko shot a bogey-free 68 on Saturday to move into a tie for sixth at eight under with Brittany Lincicome (73).
Amy Olson, the first-round leader, made three double-bogeys on her way to a 76, leaving her in a tie for 16th and 11 shots off Thompson’s lead.
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