LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — On moving day at the inaugural Diamond Resorts Tournament of Champions, there was no moves bigger than those made my Eun-Hee Ji and Lydia Ko as they head into the final round tied for the lead at 13-under par overall.
“When I was out there, you see the leaderboard and all that, but I’m just trying to focus on my game,” said Ko, who found her way to a bogey-free afternoon of 5-under par 66. “I’ve never been caught up in what position I am and what I need to do. I probably need to do that a little bit more tomorrow so I know what I need to do coming down the stretch, or the whole day really.”
Both Ko and Ji entered the third round at Tranquilo Golf Course at Four Seasons Resort Orlando two shots back and tied for second. Like Ko, Ji also recorded a 5-under par round, only with one bogey on the scorecard.
“That tournament makes me more confident,” Ji said regarding her most recent win at the 2018 Kia Classic. “This is a special event for me, enjoying it with the celebrities and amateurs. All the fans out here is really exciting.”
The duo has 36-hole leader Brooke Henderson on their heels, one shot back at 12-under par overall. Even with temperatures expected to be drastically cooler and winds picking up for the final round, the seven-time LPGA Tour winner feels good about her position.
“A lot of my wins have come in windy conditions and I tend to play a little bit better,” Henderson said after a 2-under par 69 that saw her card five birdies and three bogeys. “Hopefully things go my way, but it’s really cool to be in this position going into Sunday. I feel like I have a lot of positive things to take away.”
Meanwhile, the round of the day belonged to 2016 Epson Tour graduate Nelly Korda. The 20-year-old was brilliant in a bogey-free 6-under par 65 effort that included four birdies and an eagle.
“I played really solid, so I’m really happy with today,” said Korda. “We really made a goal this year to stay consistent, take it shot by shot and see how this year goes. Just keep doing what I’m doing, try to hit fairways and greens.”
At the top of the leaderboard in the celebrity portion of the event is a new face in 2015 Major League Baseball (MLB) Hall of Fame inductee John Smoltz with 116 points. He leads former two-time MLB All-Star Mark Mulder by four points and 36-hole leader Mardy Fish by seven.
“Today it was super windy and I missed a lot of putts by literally a hair, so I get defensive and learned from that,” said Smoltz, who is in the final pairing tomorrow at 10:50 a.m. ET off No. 1 tee with Ji and Ko. “This is going to be a great test for me. Physically, I haven't been able to do this in a long time. I've been strengthening my shoulder and really trying to get ready for these kinds of events in the future, and to be able to continue to hit balls without pain has been an absolute godsend.”
The 49 celebrities are playing a Modified Stableford scoring system. A double eagle earns 10 points, an ace earns eight points, an eagle earns five points, a birdie earns three points, a par earns two points, a bogey earns one point and a double bogey or higher earns zero points.
Final round action begins at 8:30 a.m. ET tomorrow with groups heading off No. 1 and No. 10 tees.