MADEIRA, Ohio − Minjee Lee carded a 7-under 65 to jump to the top of the leaderboard after the third round of the 2023 LPGA Kroger Queen City Championship presented by P&G. Lee’s 7-under was the lowest score of the day.
Lee, who started the third round six strokes off the lead, now leads the field by two strokes heading into the final round. CME’s world No. 26 has a chance Sunday to add to her eight career wins in her eight years as an LPGA pro.
The 27-year-old Australian posted a bogey-free round on Saturday; Lee started his round with a birdie-birdie-birdie to open three holes.
“(Those three birdies) gave me a little bit of confidence for the rest of the round,” Lee said. “Obviously, it’s always nice to have a fun start, and when you phrase it really well, that helps as well… I think just having the momentum really helps.”
Lee has yet to secure a tournament victory in 2023, but in her eight-year career she has emerged victorious from both come-from-behind weekends and lead-holding weekends. In Cincinnati, Lee believes track conditions will play a role in how Sunday plays out.
Depending on the wind, pin placements and green firmness, Lee will determine playing time what her best approach to holding a two-stroke lead will be, she said.
Two managers outside the CME Top 100
Rounding out the top 10 in the Queen City Championship standings are No. 107 Morgane Metraux (tied for fourth) and No. 112 Frida Kinhult (tied for No. 10). Kinhult shot the second-best 18-hole score of the day, a 6-under 66, to climb from 47th place.
Kinhult started his day with three straight birdies on the first three holes, followed by two pars and two more birdies to shoot 5-under on the front nine. Kinhult rode two birdies and a bogey on the back to close his three-day score at 208.
Metraux of Switzerland opened his day with back-to-back bogeys on the first two holes and shot two more on the rest of the front nine. Despite the four bogeys, Metraux made five back-nine birdies to finish Saturday’s 18 holes with a 2-under 70.
“I just jokingly said ‘let’s just make it easier on ourselves on the back nine,'” Metraux said of his mindset at the turn. “I hit a couple of really good shots in a row and made a couple of putts and it was just really solid. I didn’t quite hit all my spots on the front nine and then I did on the back nine.”
Metraux acknowledged what an up-and-down day it was for her and the rest of the field and, like Lee, expects unpredictable conditions in Sunday’s final round.
World No. 2 Ruoning Yin remains close to the top
Yin, who is playing for a shot at a world No. 1 ranking in Cincinnati this weekend, shot a 1-over 73 to drop six places from second to eighth. Yin opened her day with bogey golf until hole four, where she went bogey-free the rest of the day.
An individual top four finish is required if Yin wants the CME No. 1 spot after the Kroger Queen City Championship. Her 9-under 207 through three days has her six strokes off the lead, three strokes off a top four finish.
Former champion remains firm, stars fall in standings
Ally Ewing, who won the inaugural Kroger Queen City Championship in 2022, is tied for 15th after Saturday’s 18 holes. Ewing opened back-to-back Cincinnati tournaments with 3-under 69s, but has slowed from a year ago. On Saturday, Ewing shot a 1-under 71. On a day of 15 pars, two birdies and a bogey, Ewing started the day tied for 19th and climbed four spots.
LPGA superstar Rose Zhang, currently CME’s No. 28 golfer, shot a 1-over 73 to drop from 14th to 27th. Zhang is shooting a 5-under 211 in the weekend’s three days so far, leaving the 20-year-old Stanford University student three shots out of the top 10.
Ruixin Liu, who led the field at 7-under after round one Thursday, shot a 9-over 81 Saturday to drop from second place to tied for 47th. Liu, who has previously been forced to withdraw from tournaments due to a grass allergy, still sits at 1 under par after three days in Cincinnati.
This article originally appeared on the Cincinnati Enquirer: Minjee Lee leads after third round at LPGA Kroger Queen City Championship