Lexi leads by 3, as Ariya nears $1M prize

Lexi Thompson used another late birdie run on Saturday to maintain her three-shot lead at the season-ending CME Group Tour Championship in Naples, Fla.

Meanwhile, Thailand’s Ariya Jutanugarn is 18 holes away from winning the Race to the CME Globe and the $1 million bonus that comes with it.

Thompson carded a 32 on the back nine of the Tiburon Golf Club as part of a 4-under-par 68 that has her at 16 under for the tournament.

Fellow American Nelly Korda closed the gap to one shot with a birdie on No. 13 to get to 13 under, but canceled out two more birdies with a pair of bogeys over her final five holes to post a 5-under 67 for the round. That tied Korda for the low round of the day, but Thompson re-took command of the tournament with birdies on No. 15 and 16 to extend her margin back to the three shots she lead by entering the day.

Spain’s Carlota Ciganda is in solo third place at 10 under, followed by American Marina Alex and South Korea’s So Yeon Ryu another shot back. Brittany Lincicome, who lead by three shots at one point Friday, is tied for sixth at 8 under with Australia’s Lydia Ko.

First-round leader Amy Olson continued her free fall with a 4-over 76 on Saturday that dropped her into a tie for 16th at 5 under.

Thompson and Korda entered the week already eliminated from the Race to the CME Globe. The top five players in the rankings control their own destiny, while the top 12 hold a mathematical chance.

Jutanugarn entered the week with a big lead, and did her best on Saturday to all but close the door with a 3-under 69. She is 6 under for the tournament and tied for 12 along with Japan’s Nasa Hataoka, who is currently projected to finish fourth in the CME race.

Canada’s Brooke Henderson (T16, 5 under) is projected to move up one spot to No. 2, passing Australia’s Minjee Lee (T51, 3 over). Sung Hyun Park entered the week at No. 5 and posted her best round of the tournament with a 69, but is projected to drop two spots as she sits in solo 22nd at 3 under.

Thompson, 23, is playing this week with younger brother Curtis on her bag after parting with Kevin McAlpine. This is her final opportunity to extend her streak of winning at least one tournament every year since 2014.

–Field Level Media