PHOENIX – Sei Young Kim stumbled late Saturday afternoon in the JTBC Founders Cup, handing the lead to Eun-Hee Ji and putting Stacy Lewis, Lydia Ko, Brooke Henderson and many others in far better position than they expected.
Three strokes ahead after an eagle on the par-4 13th, Kim failed to birdie the par-5 15th and bogeyed the par-4 16th and par-3 17th. Her 2-under 70 dropped her into a tie for second with Lewis, a stroke behind Ji.
“It’s OK. I have one day, tomorrow,” said Kim, the 23-year-old South Korean player who won three times last season and was the LPGA Tour’s rookie of the year.
Ji made a 12-foot birdie putt on 17 and finished with a 65 to reach 18-under 198 on another perfect day at Desert Ridge’s Wildfire Golf Club. She is winless since the 2009 U.S. Women’s Open.
“My putting was really good,” Ji said. “My iron shot was really good, too. I was really struggling with my irons the last couple of weeks, but it’s getting better this week.”
Lewis had a 64, closing with a 4-foot birdie putt on the par-4 18th.
“These scores are just ridiculous,” Lewis said. “You just can’t look at a leaderboard. You just go out there and make as many birdies as you can.”
The Texan won the event in 2013 and finished second the last two years. She has nine runner-up finishes in a 43-event victory drought that dates to June 2014.
“I’m just really happy to see some good scores going up,” Lewis said.
Jacqui Concolino was two strokes back after a 68. The top-ranked Ko, Carlota Ciganda and Paula Creamer were another shot behind. Ko and Ciganda shot 64, and Paula Creamer had a 67.
Another shot back is Brooke Henderson. The Smiths Falls, Ont., native carded a 65 Saturday to climb into a tie for 8th at 14-under 202.