LPGA: Lydia Ko eyes 21st win; shares Blue Bay LPGA lead in China

Lydia Ko has her sights set on another victory.

The 26-year-old New Zealander carded a 6-under 66 Saturday during the third round of the Blue Bay LPGA in China, racing up the leaderboard to grab a share of the lead at 12-under overall.

She is tied at the top with two Americans, Bailey Tardy and Sarah Schmelzel.

“I played really well on the front nine again like I did [on Friday],” Ko said.

“Not often that you’re 3-under through three two days straight. To be able to make a good pitch, chip-in eagle on 3 was definitely a good momentum booster.”

Ko got off to a roaring start, keeping that momentum throughout the front nine.

Along with her birdie at 2 and eagle at the 3rd, Ko birdied the 6th and the 8th to go out with a 5-under 31.

“Didn’t put myself in that many odd places, and I feel like you can do that quite easily around here,” Ko added.

She settled down on the back nine, making a bogey at the 10th. But she rallied with a birdie at the par-5 14th and closed with another par-breaker at the par-5 18th.

Ko is now eyeing her second win of the season. She won the first event of the year, the Hilton Grand Vacations Tournament of Champions, at Lake Nona in Orlando in January.

“To win the first event on the schedule, especially at my home club, it meant a lot,” Ko added.

Lydia Ko, Bailey Tardy, LPGA

Lydia Ko and Bailey Tardy celebrate on the 13th green during the third round of the 2024 Blue Bay LPGA.
Photo by Zhizhao Wu/Getty Images

“I was able to play well; close one in Bradenton. There is still a lot of golf to be played, and it seems like someone shoots a really low score in at least one of the rounds. We all know the pin positions dictate the scores, so I have to stay patient and keep giving myself good looks and see where that puts me.”

Following her win in Orlando, Ko lost to Nelly Korda in a thrilling playoff at the LPGA Drive On Championship.

She then struggled somewhat in her most recent event, the HSBC Women’s World Championship. Ko tied for 34th, finishing at 1-over for the championship.

As for Tardy, her last top-10 finish came at last year’s U.S. Women’s Open. She has only played once this season, beginning her year with a missed cut in Bradenton.

“I think it’s great,” Tardy said of her position on the leaderboard.

“I think a lot of your work and all of your practice is really shown, so I’ve worked really hard, I guess, from the first LPGA event to now. Just happy to see results.”

Tardy, like Ko, signed for a 6-under 66 Saturday, which included two birdies and an eagle at the par-5 14th.

Schmelzel, meanwhile, shot a 3-under 69 for the second consecutive day.

Like Tardy, she also missed the cut at the LPGA Drive On Championship. But she has played the last two events of the Asian Swing, finishing in a tie for 31st in Thailand and tying for 8th in Singapore.

She has never won on the LPGA Tour before, but she is excited to play alongside Ko in the final pairing on Sunday.

“She is just such a great representative of the game, and someone that I think we can all kind of look up to,” Schmelzel said of Ko.

“I think it’s going to be a real treat for me to be able to learn from her on a Sunday like that and just be around her and get to experience what a Sunday with Lydia is like. It’s what we dream about, so it’ll be fun.”

Jack Milko is a golf staff writer for SB Nation’s Playing Through. Be sure to check out @_PlayingThrough for more golf coverage. You can follow him on Twitter @jack_milko as well.

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