Date: July 09, 2017
Author: Martin Blake

Kirk on verge of groundbreaker

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Australia’s Katherine Kirk is on track for her first win on the LPGA Tour in almost seven years, about to take a four-shot lead into a final round.

The 35-year-old Kirk, a 14-season veteran of the tour, has played some of the best golf of her life at the Thornberry Creek LPGA Classic in Oneida, Wisconsin.

Leading the tournament after the second-round 63, Kirk lost the lead to Germany’s Sandra Gal and Tiffany Joh of the United States after two early bogeys. But she was quickly on a roll again as she made four consecutive birdies at the eighth, ninth, 10th and 11th holes to seize control of the tournament after two early bogeys stalled her progress.

After the fourth of those birdies from close range at the 11th, her lead had extended to four shots and she added another birdie at the 13th.

Another long bomb birdie on the 17th hole, her ninth of the day, gave her a four-shot lead again before a tee shot into the right fairway trap at the par-four 18th hole left her short of the green and needing to make a six-metre putt to save par. Of course, she drained the putt, just her 24th shot with the short stick all day.

Kirk signed for 65 and at 20-under par, she leads Ashleigh Buhai of South Africa by four shots going into the final round. The day sets up as a playoff between the international duo, with the next bunch of players seven back from Kirk’s 54-hole total.

Always a fine putter, she has been extra good on the greens this week. “Yeah, really weird, actually. I know I can putt well, but I think I'm like pushing the limits right now,’’ she said today. “It's fun. I mean, I made, I think, a 19-footer on 17 and a 19-footer there for par. It's unexpected, but you certainly take them when you can.’’

Kirk’s last win on the tour was the Navistar LPGA Classic in 2010, and she also won the Canadian Women’s Open in 2008.

A tour regular since 2004, she has been in a lull in the past couple of seasons, outside the top 100 on the money list and with her world ranking slipping to No. 139.

Kirk does not intend changing her plans tomorrow.          “It's been a while. Actually I had to kind of scratch my head and think for a bit. Yeah, I mean, I've been playing pretty well lately, trending at least in the right direction, so I mean, I like this golf course. It suits my eye, and I think it's going to take another low one tomorrow. You saw some really good scores out there today. It's not over until it's over, right?’’

Meanwhile Western Australia’s Hannah Green dipped to tied-eighth after carding an even-par 71 today at the Donald Ross Centennial Classic on the Symetra Tour in French Lick, Indiana.

Green, the first-round leader, is just three shots from the lead.

Already seventh on the money list, she is chasing a top-10 finish this season that would give her status to play on the main tour.