CLIFTON, N.J. — Defending champion Minjee Lee of Australia overcame an opening bogey for a 5-under 67 and a three-stroke lead Saturday, heading in the final round of the Founders Cup.
No. 6 in the world, Lee had four birdies and an eagle after dropping a stroke on the par-4 first at Upper Montclair Country Club. The 26-year-old had a 12-under 204 total in her bid to join Jin Young Ko as the only players to successfully defend a title in the event that honors the 13 founding members of the LPGA Tour.
Ko won in 2019 and 2021. The event was not held in 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
American Angel Yin and South Korean rookie Hae Ran Ryu shared second place, a shot ahead of Ko, Ashleigh Buhai and Aditi Ashok. Grace Kim and Cheyenne Knight were tied for seventh, five shots behind the leader.
Solheim Cup captain Stacy Lewis, who won this event in 2013, was in 6 under along with Atthaya Thitikul, Nasa Hataoka and first-round leader Sei Young Kim, who shot a 68 after a second-round 76.
Sarah Kemp, whose shared the halfway lead with Ko, ballooned to a 75 on Saturday, 10 shots more than her second round. The 37-year-old Australian who has never won on tour was seven shots off the lead.
Lee’s errant drive on the opening hole led to her bogey. She birdied Nos. 2, 6, 8 and 9 on the front side, jarring a 50-footer on the par-3 eighth. Her eagle came from 20 feet on the par-5 12th.
She is the only player in the field to shoot all her rounds in the 60s on the tight, tree-lined course that places a premium on hitting the fairways.
Ko, who won her second straight HSBC Women’s World Championship in March, was inconsistent in her round, which she finished with a birdie.