LPGA Tour players Stacy Lewis, Jodi Ewart Shadoff and Minjee Lee talk following the third round of the LPGA Volvik Championship on Saturday in Ann Arbor. Matt Charboneau, Detroit News
Ann Arbor — For the better part of four hours Saturday afternoon, the third round of the Volvik Championship was a free for all — at least when it comes to golf.
The shuffling on the leaderboard following a two-plus hour weather delay started the moment play resumed at 3:45 p.m. and didn’t stop until Minjee Lee tapped in a birdie on the 18th hole — just after 8 p.m. — to cap off a round of 4-under 68 to put her at 12-under for the tournament, two shots clear of the field at Travis Pointe Country Club.
“Yeah, I had a pretty solid day today, made no bogeys,” Lee said. “Just four birdies on the card, which is pretty solid for today.”
While the rest of the leaderboard had their share of erratic play, solid was the best way to describe Lee’s round. Looking for her first victory since 2016, Lee had four birdies while avoiding a single bogey, something that was easier said than done.
Late in the round as she clung to a one-shot lead, Lee two-putted from long range on the par-3 16th then managed par at No. 17 after her tee shot hit a tree but, fortunately, didn’t kick out of bounds.
Those two-par saves proved to be as critical as any of her birdies.
“Yeah, I think I had like 50 feet or something (on 16),” Lee said. “(The first putt) was pretty slow, but I thought it would be a little bit faster but it wasn't. But I think I had like 8 feet or something (for par). No, that was a good save. We put a good read on it and I stroked it pretty good, so it went in.”
Par saves didn’t come as easily for the rest of the field. None of the four players two shots back at 10-under were able to avoid a bogey, however, there was some impressive play from the group.I.K. Kim birdied six of her first eight holes before a couple of bogeys on the back nine slowed her down along with short birdie miss at No. 18. Lindy Duncan got to 11-under before a bogey at No. 17 and Jodi Ewart Shadoff had four birdies and an eagle but lost a share of the lead after the last of her three bogeys at No. 16.
“It was good, solid,” Shadoff said. “I had a hole out on No. 4 which really got my round going. But yeah, I holed some decent putts. I hit a couple of good drives and a couple of birdies coming in, so overall it was pretty decent.”
Stacy Lewis’ round, like most, was halted by the delay, but that seemed to get her going. She birdied No. 9 then had birdies on five of the final six holes on the back, though a bogey was thrown in the mix at No. 15.
“It was a little back and forth,” Lewis said. “Obviously at the start, I wasn't hitting it very good and just getting it up and down and birdied five of the last six. That definitely gets you in the hunt and gets you in the mix and that's just what you have to do on this golf course is take advantage of the good shots and hang in there the rest of the way.”
The congested leaderboard didn’t end there as 13 players are within four shots of the lead. Five players sit at 9-under entering the final round, including major champion Danielle Kang and tour rookie Emma Talley, who tied for the best round of the day at 6-under 66.
“I played really, really well today and I'm really excited,” Talley said. “My goal the last couple weeks has been to shoot 2- or 3-under every day, and I shot even yesterday so this kind of got me back to my average of 3-under, so I was really excited. To put myself in this position is exciting only like 12 tournaments in, so I'm excited.”
Four more players were four back at 8-under, including 2016 Volvik champion Ariya Jutanugarn.
Another four players, led by second-round leader Nasa Hataoka, were five back at 7-under.
It all adds up to a potential shootout on Saturday.
“It's fun for everybody,” Lewis said. “For us players I think you would rather get a two-horse race or something like that. But this golf course, you can shoot a number. You can shoot 6- or 7-under, but you can also play pretty good and shoot even par. So you've just got to get runs like I did there at the end of the day and just keep hanging around and post a number and see what happens. That's what wins these things.”