Celine Boutier of France had an eagle and six birdies in a round of 7-under-par 65 and moved atop the leaderboard when Moriya Jutanugarn of Thailand stumbled down the stretch in Saturday’s third round of the LPGA Drive on Championship at Gold Canyon, Ariz.
Boutier, a 29-year-old two-time tour winner, made an eagle 3 on the par-5 second hole and added two birdies that offset a bogey at the par-3 eighth. She played the back nine in 4 under for a 16 under total and a one-stroke lead over three others heading into Sunday’s final round.
“I feel like I had a lot of birdie opportunities today,” she said. “I didn’t even make all of them, but I feel like because I was playing really steady and focusing on hitting good shots and having the birdie chances, I feel like I made a few.”
If the opening three rounds of the tour’s first full-field event of the season are any indication, the finale should be a scramble. There are 17 golfers within three shots of the lead after nine players posted rounds of 7- to 9-under par in a birdie-filled Saturday.
Boutier, whose last win came at the 2021 Shoprite Classic outside Atlantic City, N.J., figures she’ll have to go low in the final round with the course’s firm fairways and speedy greens.
“There is definitely a lot of opportunities, so I think I’m going to have to shoot a pretty low score to be able to have a chance,” Boutier said.
Jutanugarn (69), American Alison Lee (67), and South Korean rookie Hae Ran Ryu (64) were tied for second at 15 under.
Ariya Jutanugarn of Thailand and rookie Celine Borge of Norway are another stroke back after vaulting up the leaderboard with third round 63s.
Two-time major champion Jin Young Ko of South Korea carded a 4-under 68 and finished in a 12-way tie for seventh place at 13 under.
Moriya Jutanugarn appeared to be taking control of the tournament in the middle of her back nine with four birdies between Nos. 11 and 15 before stumbling on the closing holes. She made bogey at the first and, after moving into the lead at 17 under with two holes remaining, made bogey out of a greenside bunker at the par-3 17th, and hit her second shot into a lake that borders the left side of the closing hole. She made bogey 6 at the last, yet looked ahead.
“As long as I’m still in contention, I’m pretty happy with that,” said Moriya Jutanugarn, the 2013 Rookie of the Year who has two tour wins. “I know it’s not the finish I want, but it’s still there.”
Lee overcame a bogey at the third with six birdies through the rest of the round in pursuit of her first LPGA victory.
“I definitely have some work to do tomorrow,” Lee said. “I know that for a fact. ... Before teeing off, I saw Amy Yang shot 9 under. I was like, ‘Wow, I’ve got a lot of work to do today.’
“With that in mind, I don’t feel at ease, because like I said, I know I’m going to have to step on the gas pedal tomorrow.”
Ryu built momentum through her round, making six birdies and closing with an eagle-3 at the par-5 18th.
No. 2-ranked Nelly Korda, the highest-ranked player in the field with top-ranked Lydia Ko not competing, was at 10 under after a third-round 70.
PGA — Nicolai Hojgaard of Denmark played bogey-free for a 6-under-par 66 and shared the lead with PGA Tour rookie Sam Stevens in the Corales Punta Cana Championship in the Dominican Republic.
Stevens twice had the lead down the stretch on the Corales course until a wobbly finish, making bogey on the 16th, answering with a birdie on the par-3 17th and then missing the 18th green for a closing bogey and a 68.
They were at 14-under 202, one shot ahead of a large group that included 36-hole leader Matt Wallace of England, Thomas Detry of Belgium, and Tyler Duncan, who won his only PGA Tour title at Sea Island in 2019.
“Sixteen, I kind of misjudged the wind and sliced it and made a bogey there. Then 18, I just hit a bad iron shot,” Stevens said. “That was my worst swing of the day. I felt pretty good about everything else.”
All of them had to deal with a relentless wind, which was particularly strong during the closing holes that likely will decide the tournament on Sunday.
Hojgaard, a two-time winner on the European tour who is playing on a sponsor exemption, missed only one green.
Detry, who had a 65, is the highest-ranked player in the field at No. 82, though a victory would not be enough for him to crack the top 50 and get into the Masters. And because Punta Cana is an opposite-field event, winning will not get him to Augusta National.
For Hojgaard, a win would gain him a two-year exemption on the PGA Tour. He currently is No. 28 in the Race to Dubai points list in Europe. The leading 10 players not already exemption have access to PGA Tour membership this year.
Wyndham Clark had a 69 and joined the group at 13-under 203. Wallace had a double bogey on his third hole and recovered to salvage a 70, leaving him in good shape going to Sunday.
European — Alexander Knappe overtook fellow German Nick Bachem to take a one-shot lead into the final round of the Jonsson Workwear Open as he chases a first European tour title.
Knappe moved to 17 under overall after collecting eight birdies in his third-round, 7-under 65 at The Club at Steyn City in Johannesburg. He could have had a two-shot lead if not for a bogey on No. 17, his first dropped shot since the first round.
Bachem, who led by one overnight, is still in contention in a four-way tie for second, one shot behind after a 69.
Sweden’s Joakim Lagergren surged up the leaderboard to join that tie for second after carding the round of the week, a flawless 9-under 63. South Africa’s Hennie du Plessis and Malaysia’s Gavin Green are also on 16 under.