Trio share Ford Championship lead heading into Sunday

Spain’s Carlota Ciganda shot a 6-under par 66 on Saturday to grab a share of a three-way tie atop the leaderboard at the LPGA’s Ford Championship in Gilbert, Ariz.

Joining Ciganda at the top are Hyo Joo Kim of South Korea, who shot a 3-under 69, and Sarah Schmelzel (2-under 70) on a windy day in the desert. All three sit at 15-under 201 heading into Sunday’s final round at Seville Golf and Country Club.

Ciganda, a two-time winner on the Tour, caught fire at the end of her round to make her climb. Starting the tournament outside of the Top 100 in the Race to CME Globe standings, Ciganda sat at 3 under through the first 12 holes on Saturday, thanks to an eagle on the par-5 fifth and a birdie at the par-4 seventh.

Then she closed with two birdies and an eagle over the final six holes — with a bogey 4 on the par-3 14th her only blemish.

“Very happy with the 6 under today,” Ciganda said. ” The wind is really strong. Lots of side winds, and it’s just, yeah, it’s just hard. I think if you can hit greens (those are) good shots. There are some holes that are playing downhill and you can take advantage, as well as the par 5s.”

Schmelzel may be the only member of the trio at the top of the standings yet to win on Tour, but her game has been surging of late. The 29-year-old finished in the top 8 in each of her previous three events before the Ford, including a career-best second-place showing at the Blue Bay LPGA in the first weekend in March.

“It was a grind. It was definitely a grind,” said Schmelzel, an Arizona native.” It’s so tough putting in those conditions when it’s so blustery. You just have to add an element into your reads and everything. So I didn’t make as many putts obviously, but just happy to get out of there with an under-par round today and put myself in a good position for tomorrow.”

Along with the winds, the leaders will have to contend with a field that includes 12 players within two strokes of the lead.

Sweden’s Maja Stark (66 on Saturday) and Japan’s Yuka Saso (69) are tied for fourth, one stroke back.

Among the players another shot back is Korea’s Mi Hyang Lee, whose 8-under 64 was the best round of the day. Lexi Thompson (69), Nelly Korda and New Zealand’s Lydia Ko (70) are also part of the logjam.

Hannah Green of Australia, who shot an 11-under 61 on Friday to hold a one-stroke lead at the halfway point, shot a three-over 75 on Sunday and slipped to a tie for 21st at 11-under 205.