Composite photo of two female golfers, one smiling straight at the camera and the other pictured at the completion of a shot.

Leona Maguire, Lydia Ko set for final round head-to-head in LPGA Tour Championship, as Minjee Lee fades from player of the year contention

Ireland’s Leona Maguire has shot a dazzling nine-under 63 to catch Lydia Ko in the LPGA Tour Championship and set up a duel for the richest prize in women’s golf.

At stake on Sunday at Tiburon Golf Club in Florida is $US2 million ($3 million) to the winner.

Maguire, one of 11 first-time winners on the LPGA Tour this year, is too far back in the points race to win LPGA player of the year, though earning that size of winner’s cheque would make up for that. If she wins, it would be nearly twice what Maguire has made in 23 previous events.

Ko had a five-shot lead to start the third round — seven shots ahead of Maguire — and made a mixture of birdies and bogeys that stalled her round. She fell one shot behind Maguire until chipping to tap-in range on the par-5 17th. She finished with a 70.

They were at 15-under 201 in what shaped up as a two-player race for the $US2 million.

No one else was closer than five shots to them. Former US Women’s Open champion Jeongeun Lee shot a 4-under 68 and Gemma Dryburgh of Scotland had a 3-under 69. They were at 10-under 206 after 54 holes.

The forecast for Sunday was for rain and 32 kph gusts.

“Nothing I’m not used to from Ireland,” Maguire said when she finished her round. “Looking forward to one last walk of the season tomorrow.”

Brooke Henderson kept her slim hopes alive for player of the year. The Canadian, who had to withdraw last week with a back injury, had two eagles in her round of 65 and was at 9-under 207.

Henderson will have to win the Tour Championship and have Ko finish third or worse to win player of the year.

Ko came into the week with a one-point advantage over Australia’s Minjee Lee for player of the year.

Lee, who won the US Women’s Open and leads the LPGA money list, has fallen nine shots behind at 6-under after a 71 and is all but certain to be eliminated.

Minjee Lee’s up and down third round of 71 left her trailing the leaders by nine shots, with little chance of winning the LPGA player of the year award.(AP: Lynne Sladky )

Lee picked up a $US1 million this week for the season-long Risk Reward Challenge as statistically and strategically the most attacking player on the LPGA Tour.

Ko is a lock to win the Vare Trophy for having the lowest scoring average.


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