BELLEAIR — Lexi Thompson maintained a short-term memory when she needed it most Saturday during the third round of the Pelican Women’s Championship.
Thompson’s putt on the 15th hole skirted the cup, leading to a bogey. But the 25-foot walk from the edge of the green to the 16th tee was long enough for a mental reset.
She crushed her drive and put herself in perfect position to bounce back and birdie the par-4 hole.
It was that type of mentality that allowed second-round co-leader Thompson to shoot 5-under 65 and remain atop the leaderboard, though she once again has company. This time it’s fellow Florida native and world No. 1 Nelly Korda, who shot 63 to move to 16-under 194.
“That’s honestly what I’ve been working on the hardest, is the mental part of the game,” said Thompson of Delray Beach. “I hit a good shot on the par-3 (15th) and didn’t hit the best of first putts, but hit a good second putt and it just lipped out. I hit a good tee shot on the next one, and I’m like, ‘All right, let’s just get it back and stick it close and make birdie on this play,’ and ... sure enough. Golf is such a mental game, you just have to stay in the moment and stay positive.”
Thompson’s putting has also come into play this weekend, despite the bogey on 15. She said working 2-3 hours every night on her Perfect Practice Putting Mat in her living room is to thank for that.
“It just stares at me,” she said. “So I’m just like, I should putt.”
Thompson, who began the day tied with Jennifer Kupcho at 11 under, had six birdies to go with the bogey in her round as she goes for her first LPGA Tour win of the year.
Korda began her round two shots off the lead, but eight birdies and only one bogey enabled the Bradenton native to catch Thompson.
Korda said it will be important to maintain an aggressive approach Sunday, when she will be grouped with the 13th-ranked Thompson for the first time in their careers.
“I feel like in distance we’re pretty close,” Korda said of how her game compares to Thompson’s. “I do definitely have another gear, and I don’t like to whip that out because that gear, I never know if it’s going to go right or left. That’s why I like to keep it level pretty much. But I mean, she’s playing well.”
Throughout the day, Thompson and Korda stayed within two strokes of each other. But Korda, playing in the group ahead, had a birdie-birdie finish, and Thompson parred out to forge the tie.
A 30-minute rain delay softened the greens around noon at the Pelican Golf Club, soon after the leaders teed off, but it didn’t impact the course much, Thompson said.
Get real-time alerts about your favorite teams
Subscribe to our free Breaking Sports News newsletter
You’re all signed up!
Want more of our free, weekly newsletters in your inbox? Let’s get started.Explore all your options
“It just slows the greens up quite a bit, gets a bit softer,” she said.
Kupcho could have made it a three-way tie for first, but she bogeyed No. 18 for 4-under 66 to fall one shot back at 195. She will be in Sunday’s final threesome with Korda and Thompson.
Defending champion Sei Young Kim (65) and Christina Kim (65) were two shots off the lead at 196. Another shot back were Patty Tavatanakit, who has already clinched the tour’s rookie of the year award, and Lydia Ko. Both shot 64.
Kupcho has five top-10 finishes in career but is still seeking her first tour victory.
“I’m just (going) to do what I can and control what I can control,” said Kupcho, a runnerup on tour in each of the past three years. “I can’t control what everyone else is doing, so I think that’s the biggest thing I’ve learned the couple times that I’ve been in really close contention.”
LPGA Pelican Women’s Championship
When: Through Sunday
Where: Pelican Golf Club, Belleair
Purse: $1.75 million
History: Sei Young Kim won the inaugural tournament last year
Coverage: Livestream, 1 p.m. Sunday, nbcsports.com. Taped, 7:30 p.m. Sunday, Golf Channel