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Maguire retains 1-shot lead in Women's PGA Championship

Leona Maguire Leona Maguire - The Canadian Press

SPRINGFIELD, N.J. (AP) — Leona Maguire is a round away from winning for the second straight week and becoming the first woman from Ireland to win a major.

All that stands in the way of the 28-year-old from Cavan is a close friend from Northern Ireland — Stephanie Meadow — and 30-year-old Jenny Shin, who no longer is just happy to be playing on the LPGA Tour. She wants to win again, badly.

Maguire birdied the final hole for her eighth straight round in the 60s to take a one-shot lead over fast-closing Shin and a two-stroke edge over Meadow on Saturday, heading into the final round of the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship.

Maguire is at the top of her game. She won in Michigan last week for her second LPGA Tour victory, and her play has carried over at historic Baltusol, the site of 12 majors. She has hit 38 of 42 fairways and 48 of 54 greens in the first 54 holes, and her 2-under 69 Saturday gave her a 7-under total on a course that was tough, but gettable, after two days of intermittent rain softened the greens.

“I don’t think it’s any different,” the 28-year-old Maguire said after retaining a one-shot lead. “I think it’s one more round of golf. I have to hit one shot at a time tomorrow and play some really good golf. It doesn’t matter that it’s a major. It’s really no different than any other day, and I’m not going to treat it any different.”

Shin matched the best round of the tournament with a bogey-free 66 that featured five birdies. The South Korean has lived in the United States since she was nine. She admitted she started playing golf because her parents wanted it.

“I didn’t roll into this game wanting to be No. 1 in the world,” she said. “I was just happy being out here. ‘Oh, I’m an LPGA Tour player. I’m one of the best world players in the world.’"

Playing was more a goal than winning, even though she won on tour in 2016. Her attitude has changed in recent years.

“I’m a perfectionist in some ways, and you can never be perfect with this game, but I would like to give it a try,” Shin said. “So I’m digging my own grave.”

Meadow, who played at Alabama and finished third in the U.S. Women's Open in 2014 in her first pro event, was alone in third place after a 68 put her at 5-under 208. She has not won on the LPGA Tour, but has won on the women's European circuit.

“I can’t think of anything much better for Irish women’s golf, which is incredible,” Meadow said of two Irish women high on the leaderboard. “We have been close. I mean, we’ve known each other since -- I mean, she was probably 10, and I was 13 or something like that. So it’s been quite the journey together for both of us to make it.”

Meadow had her best finish of the year, a T-13, last weekend and she is looking forward to the final round.

With the threat of severe weather for the final round on Sunday, the PGA announced play will start at 8:15 a.m. EDT, and the field will be grouped in threesomes playing off both nines. The leaders are scheduled to tee off at 10:38 a.m., with Maguire and Meadow playing with Shin.

First-round leader Lee-Anne Pace (70) of South Africa and Ruoning Yin (69) of China were three shots back, and Lauren Coughlin (68) and world No. 1 Jin Young Ko (69) of South Korea were another stroke off the pace on a sunny day in which forecast storms never developed.

Xiyu Lin, who started the round a shot behind Maguire, slipped to 2-under 211 along with Americans Megan Khang and Mina Harigae and Yuka Saso of Japan.

Rose Zhang, who won in her professional debut earlier this month, got herself into contention at 1 under with a 68, finishing with a tap-in eagle at the par-5 18th. The 20-year-old did a television interview, but walked away from media after her round.

Several players were within striking distance heading into the third round, but struggled.

Rookie Celine Borge of Norway shot at 74 and was at 212, a shot ahead of Brooke Henderson (72) of Canada and world No. 5 Minjee Lee (75) of Australia.

Mel Reid of England, who was a shot off the lead after a second-round 67, needed 10 extra shots. Well, make that nine. She was accessed a one-stroke penalty for illegally lifting her ball on the fifth hole. She marked it and didn’t realize it was not on the green. She was at 215 with Gina Kim (74).


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