Queenslander Katherine Kirk will take a four shot lead into tonight’s final round of the Thornberry Creek LPGA Classic in Oneida, Wisconsin, and sits on the brink of claiming her first win on the LPGA Tour since 2010.
After almost three years in the golfing wilderness making swing changes and battling to make cuts, the ALPG star and multiple LPGA tournament winner looks to be back to her best form after shooting rounds of 68, 63 and 67 to be at 20 under par after 3 rounds, four shots clear of her nearest rival, South African Ashleigh Buhai.
The 35-year-old Kirk, in her fourteenth season on the LPGA Tour, has shown signs in early 2017 that her game was heading back in the right direction. An 11th place finish in Hawaii early in the year was her best LPGA finish in almost four years, and a 10th place finish two weeks ago in Arkansas meant that Kirk knew if she could string four solid rounds together her game was good enough to contend again.
Kirk started today’s third round with a three shot lead after an opening round 68 and a career best second-round 63, and an opening birdie increased her lead further.
However after stumbling slightly with bogeys at the 2nd and 5th holes, Kirk bounced back with four consecutive birdies from the eighth hole, and further birdies at the 13th, 15th and 17th holes saw her increase the lead back to four shots. Kirk, who had putted beautifully all day expressed her relief after holing out from around seven metres for par on the final hole, which saw the Queenslander signing for a third round 7 under par 65 and keep a four shot buffer heading into the final day.
The final round sets up as a shoot-out between Kirk and Buhai, with the players tied behind them in third place seven shots off the lead.
Always considered one of the tour’s most consistent putters Kirk has been exemplary on the greens this week requiring just 77 putts in her first 3 rounds.
“Yeah, really weird, actually. I know I can putt well, but I think I'm like pushing the limits right now,’’ she said “It's fun. I mean, I made, I think, a 19-footer on 17 and a 19-footer there for par. It's unexpected, but you certainly take them when you can.’’
Kirk’s last win on the tour was at 2010 Navistar LPGA Classic, after her first LPGA Tour win came in 2008 at the Canadian Women’s Open.
Kirk said she will take nothing for granted tomorrow and will continue to play aggressively.
“It's been a while. Actually, I had to kind of scratch my head and think for a bit. Yeah, I mean, I've been playing pretty well lately, trending at least in the right direction, so I mean, I like this golf course. It suits my eye, and I think it's going to take another low one tomorrow. You saw some really good scores out there today. It's not over until it's over, right?’’
Kirk will tee off in the final round at 10:45am local time tomorrow alongside Buhai and Japanese star Ayako Uehara
Of the other Australians who made it through to the weekend Minjee Lee will start the final round at 9 under par in 23rd position, while Karrie Webb is at +1 tied for 78th.
Scores can be found at lpgascoring.com
Watch the final round action live on FoxSports from 7:30 am AEST
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