Through three days at Baltusrol’s Lower Course, Leona Maguire has been the best player at the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship.
She is the only golfer to card three rounds in the 60s, as she shot a 2-under 69 Saturday to get to 7-under overall.
“It was a little more of a mixed bag than the first two days, but I felt like I hung in really well,” Maguire said to NBC’s Amy Rogers after the round. “Anytime you break 70 on a major championship golf course, you are pretty happy.”
Maguire birdied Baltusrol’s opening hole and took advantage of the par-5 7th, making another birdie there. She carded a 2-under 33 on the opening nine, making the turn at 7-under for the championship.
She teetered on the second nine but hung on down the stretch as she bogeyed the 11th and the 17th holes.
Then on the par-5 18th, Maguire hit a beautiful second shot into the green to set up another birdie. Her two-putt on 18 gives her a one-shot advantage over Jenny Shin of South Korea heading into Sunday.
“I think the game plan is the same as the last three days,” Maguire added. “[I need to] try to go and execute really good golf shots, and if it’s enough [Sunday], then it’s enough.”
No female player from Ireland has won a major championship. But Maguire is not concerned about that narrative Sunday in New Jersey.
“I know [a win] would mean a lot, but I am not trying to get too far ahead of myself,” Maguire noted. “It’s just another day on the golf course, and me and [caddy] Dermot [Byrne] will enjoy the walk, and whatever it will be, will be.”
Of course, Padraig Harrington, the first Irish golfer to win multiple major championships, has served as an essential mentor to Maguire.
She will need to lean on his advice Sunday, as she will try and win her first major championship.
World number one Jin Young Ko is four shots back at 3-under. Meanwhile, 20-year-old phenom Rose Zhang is hanging around at 1-under after an epic eagle finish.
Jack Milko is a golf staff writer for SB Nation’s Playing Through. You can follow him on Twitter and Instagram @jack_milko for more golf coverage. Be sure to check out @_PlayingThrough too.