At one point on Friday, Brooke Henderson had a five-stroke lead and seemed primed to run away with the LOTTE Championship presented by Hershey. But at No. 16, that all changed.
Henderson four-putted for double bogey at the par-3 16th to drop from 12-under to 10-under and then failed to get up and down for par at the par-4 18th to finish at 9-under 207 through 54 holes.
With that, what was a runaway quickly became a tight battle. Henderson takes a one-stroke lead over Mo Martin into Saturday’s final round at Ko Olina Golf Club. Nasa Hataoka and Inbee Park are two strokes back, with Lizette Salas and Shanshan Feng three strokes behind.
“I hit it so well today that it kind of sucks to walk off the course 1 over when I know it could’ve been so much better,” said a frustrated Henderson after the round. She is chasing her 6th victory on the LPGA at the age of 20.
Despite the turmoil on the greens, Henderson remains positive.
“I’ve been kind of struggling with my putting all year. First few rounds I had it going and I felt confident with it; then on the back nine I just kept missing I just felt like every single putt and kind of I got a little bit down. That’s always a terrible way to be, especially when you’re still leading the tournament. Unfortunately missed a couple and now I’m 1-over. But at the same time, I’m still minus-9 for the whole tournament, and I’m feeling good going into tomorrow.”
With past finishes of t-10, and t-11 at Ko Olina, Brooke says she is comfortable at the course and that continues as she carries her slim lead in the final round.
“I would’ve liked it to be a lot more, but one shot is good. I know there are still a ton of really talented players really close behind me, so I’ll have to go out and make a lot of birdies and hopefully it’s my day.”
A player known more for her accuracy than her length, Martin took advantage of hitting with a strong tailwind to make an eagle-3 at No. 13, just her third eagle in the last two LPGA Tour seasons.
“(With) no wind I would consider hitting a 3-wood, but downwind 3-wood was going to be way too much,” said Martin, who similarly made eagle at the 2014 Ricoh Women’s British Open and earn the only win of her LPGA career. “Craig (Castrale, her caddie) made me laugh. He said, there is no way you’re hitting a 3-wood. He basically said, I’m going to tackle you before you hit a 3-wood here. So I was laughing actually, so I grabbed a 5. Had to step on it just a little bit, and I did; hit it perfect. Actually kind of started walking after I hit it because I couldn’t waiting to go see what it was.”
Martin will join Henderson and Nasa Hataoka in the final pairing on Saturday. They tee off at 11:50 a.m. local time.
Three other Canadians are also looking to make the most of the final round.
Brittany Marchand is tied for 41st in her first start as a LPGA member. Alena Sharp shares 58th, while Maude-Aimee Leblanc has a piece of 64th.