Defending champion Sei Young Kim leads Jin Young Ko by one at CME Group Tour Championship

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Greg Hardwig, Naples Daily News
·3 min read
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Sei Young Kim was smiling. Not just because she was in the lead after three rounds of the CME Group Tour Championship on Saturday.

“Warm weather,” she said. “I love Florida.”

The defending champion stumbled with a missed short par putt on the 18th hole, but holds a one-stroke lead over World No. 1 Jin Young Ko going into the final round.

“It’s not feel good,” Kim said of the three-putt bogey. “After the bogey I feel was – if I had more hole I just try to re-bounce, but I don’t have anymore holes today.”

Kim and Ko switched positions, but that was about it as far as any drama in the third round at the top. But several moved into position, especially after Kim’s final-hole bogey.

Kim built a three-shot lead over Ko, after 13 holes, but played the final five holes in 1 over. Ko’s birdie out of the greenside bunker on No. 17 had drawn her within two.

Georgia Hall, the 2018 Women’s British Open champion, is in third, three back. Lexi Thompson, the winner in Naples in 2018, never got going, shooting a 1-under 71 and is tied for fourth with Brooke Henderson, Charley Hull (another winner in Naples), Minjee Lee, and Austin Ernst.

Ko had a one-shot lead at the start of the round, but Kim caught her with a birdie on No. 2 and passed her with birdies on Nos. 5 and 7, then added birdies on Nos. 10, 11 and 13.

“Always fun playing with her,” Ko said. “We play together last year and we played — we practiced together at the U.S. Open last week. So we know each other.

“But this is competition, so we are close but we have to separate on the course.”

Even when Kim got in trouble, she wiggled out of it, until the final hole. She got up and down for par on the par-3 12th after her shot went just to the left of the cart path. She got in trouble again on the par-5 17th, with her drive well right, but also saved par.

“I made a long putt, and then I was – I got the good momentum,” Kim said of the birdie on No. 13. “But I try to keep the same momentum but it was tough. So, yeah, I try to finish strong, but I had three-putt the hole 18, so I just, yeah, little disappointed with that. I just keep it up (Sunday).”

But Kim has two victories, including a major in this shortened LPGA Tour season, so adding a third is on the docket.

“I just keep, yeah, attack every tournament,” she said. “I mean, especially this years I had a good two win(s) already, but I think that win, the reason why is I play very aggressive in this year and keep push myself.

“I set my goal already before came here, and I try to reach my goal.”

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