PARADISE ISLAND, Bahamas – Here on the shores of what history remembers as the old Pirate Republic, another wild shootout is being staged for a precious treasure.
All that’s missing is the distant echo of cannon fire.
The Pure Silk Bahamas Classic turned into a chaotic struggle Saturday for the big prize here at the Ocean Club Golf Course.
Eight different players had a piece of the lead at some point in the suspended third round.
With the sun finally sinking halting play at 5:53 p.m., Gerina Piller was the sole leader at 10-under through nine holes of the third round, but there was a logjam of challengers in hot pursuit. Thirteen players are within two shots of the lead.
Just one shot back are Lexi Thompson (16 holes), Sandra Gal (9 holes), Brooke Pancake (7 holes), Kelly Shon (10 holes), Perrine Delacour (12 holes) and Sei Young Kim (seven holes).
Two shots back are Inbee Park (7 holes), Stacy Lewis (15 holes), Brittany Lincicome (13 holes), Hee Young Park (12 holes), Sun Young Yoo (9 holes) and Ariya Jutanugarn (10 holes).
The third round is scheduled to resume Sunday with players back in position at 8 a.m. There will be no re-pairing after the third round is complete. Players will be sent out for the final round beginning about 9:38 a.m. in the same threesome groupings they played in the third round. They’ll go off the first and 10th tees again.
This sets up the possibility the winner could finish Sunday on the ninth green.
With a traffic jam atop the leaderboard Saturday evening, Piller separated herself by sticking a wedge to 3 feet at the eighth hole. She broke free of a six-way tie for the lead with a birdie there.
“I’m driving the ball well,” she said. “My irons are great. I’m making birdies, obviously hitting (shots) close and making 15- and 20-footers. It’s just all coming together.”
Piller is seeking her first LPGA title.
Thompson caught fire on her first nine. She started the third round tied for 33rd. When she holed a 6-foot birdie on her 13th hole, she seized a share of the lead. She made her bolt up the leaderboard with five consecutive birdies in the middle of the course.
Still just 19, Thompson is seeking her fifth LPGA win. She had the round of the day going at 7 under through 16 holes.
Lewis has the next best round to Thompson going. They played together Saturday and will play together again on Sunday. Lewis was 6 under through 16.
“We probably had the best golf going today,” Thompson said. “We were definitely feeding off each other.”
Lewis finished second at Pure Silk last year.
“I feel like the first two rounds I hit the ball really well, it was just the conditions were so unbelievably hard,” Lewis said. “It was just hard to make putts.”
There’s more than a trophy at stake Sunday, with Lydia Ko looking to hold on to the Rolex No. 1 ranking she claimed last week and Park looking to take it back.
Park can ascend back to No. 1 with a win or second- or third-place finish, depending what Ko does. Ko will start Sunday tied for 32nd, six shots back.
If Park wins, she goes to No. 1 if Ko finishes T-2 or worse. If Park finishes solo second, she goes to No. 1 if Ko does not finish better than T-4 with two other players. If Park finishes solo third, she goes to No. 1 if Ko does not finish better than T-13 with two other players.