(Reuters) – Kim Kaufman fired a third-round eight-under-par 64 to join Michelle Wie, Ariya Jutanugarn and Suzann Pettersen in a four-way tie at the top of a crowded leaderboard for the season-ending CME Group Tour Championship in Florida on Saturday.
Wie shot 66, Ariya 67 and Norway’s Pettersen 69 as all four players reached 10-under-par 206 heading into the final round at Tiburon Golf Club in Naples Florida.
A group of seven golfers, including overnight leader Park Sung-hyun (75) were a shot behind on nine-under 207.
The 26-year-old Kaufman, who is seeking her first LPGA victory, carded eight birdies to vault to the top.
Her performance in Florida is even more surprising given she has been unable to practice much recently. Kaufman told LPGA.com she had been resting at home for two weeks after a bout of mononucleosis and the cold weather in South Dakota made practice difficult.
Wie, who is seeking her first win since 2014, has not had the easiest of weeks. After six weeks off to recover from an emergency appendectomy, she played five consecutive events in Asia, leaving her short on energy.
“I’ve been sitting as much as I can,” said Wie. “Last week I was like laying down on the golf course.
“Basically, I’m just a hermit crab this week. I’m just sleeping as much as I can and not leaving my room; just really trying to keep my energy levels up.”
South Korean rookie Park, who had a three-stroke lead heading into Saturday’s round, blamed errant driving for her troubles.
“I think the tee shots were not quite solid, so there was something missing out there,” she said.
“Over the course of four days there is always a day when you are not in top shape and that was today. The key tomorrow will be keeping my focus.”
A lot will be at stake for the South Korean.
Win on Sunday and she will not only be the rookie of the year but also player of the year, the money leader and winner of the $1 million bonus. She will likely also return to world number one.
(Reporting by Gene Cherry in Salvo, North Carolina; Editing by Peter Rutherford)