With 18 holes remaining in the 2013 LPGA season, an exciting conclusion appears in store Sunday at the CME Group Titleholders. Here's how things look heading into the final round in Naples, where Natalie Gulbis headlines a trio atop a star-studded leaderboard:
Leaderboard: Natalie Gulbis (-11), Pornanong Phatlum (-11), Gerina Piller (-11), Stacy Lewis (-9), Sandra Gal (-9), Lexi Thompson (-9), Shanshan Feng (-9), Michelle Wie (-8)
What it means: It appears that things will be going down to the wire at Tiburon. Gulbis surged to the top of the standings with her low round of the year, capitalizing on the struggles of the overnight leader, Gal. She was caught thanks to late birdies by both Phatlum and Piller, as the three women will share the lead heading into the final round with a $700,000 check awaiting the winner.
Round of the day: A winner at the Women’s British Open earlier this year, Lewis flashed the form that took her to the top of the Rolex Rankings with a 9-under 63 Saturday. Her round included an eagle on the par-4 third hole and six birdies across a seven-hole stretch from Nos. 11-17. In all, Lewis improved by 10 shots over her second-round effort, and she will begin the final round just two shots off the lead
Best of the rest: Gulbis began with a bogey on her opening hole, but had no trouble the rest of the way. Her 7-under 65 included two different streaks of three birdies in a row, first from Nos. 3-5 and again from holes 8-10. The round gave Gulbis a share of the lead as she looks to win for the first time since 2007.
Biggest disappointment: After she seemed in command for the first two days, Gal struggled Saturday to a 2-over 74 that forced her to relinquish her lead. The German stumbled out of the gate, playing her first four holes in 3 over, and made only one birdie in her third round after totaling 14 across the first 36 holes.
Main storyline heading into Sunday: This leaderboard is not lacking for interesting angles, but the top one is likely Gulbis as she looks to end a relatively disappointing season with a breakthrough win. The victory would be her first since the 2007 Evian Masters, though the group chasing her includes Lewis and Thompson, each looking to add to what are already multiple win seasons.
Quote of the day: “I haven’t had a lot of off weeks during the season. When you’re not playing well, it’s good to get back and work on some fundamentals again.” - Gulbis, who took three weeks off from competition before playing in the Wendy's Three-Tour Challenge last week.