Hull leads loaded CME; Lydia vs. Ariya for $1M

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Charley Hull

Thanks to a third-round 66, 20-year-old Charley Hull leads the CME Group Tour Championship over a host of the game’s top players. Here’s where things stand through 54 holes at Tiburon, where the tournament, a $1 million jackpot, Player of the Year honors and more will be decided Sunday:

Leaderboard: Hull (-13), Brittany Lincicome (-12), So Yeon Ryu (-12), Ariya Jutanugarn (-11), Jennifer Song (-11), Lizette Salas (-11), In Gee Chun (-11), Lydia Ko (-11), Amy Yang (-10), Mo Martin (-10), Beatriz Recari (-10)

What it means: Hull, yet another of the LPGA’s wunderkinds, is search of her first LPGA title after a runner-up earlier this year at the ANA Inspiration. Standing in her way, 11 players are within three shots of the lead and five of them – Ko (1), Jutanugarn (2), Chun (3), Yang (11), Ryu (12) – are inside the Rolex World Ranking’s top 12. The top two of those, Ko and Jutanugarn, are battling for more than just the Tour Championship. Those two are competing for both the Rolex Player of the Year Award and the Race to the CME Globe’s $1 million jackpot. Jutanugarn will win Player of the Year so long as Ko doesn’t win this event Sunday. Should Ko find a way to overtake Hull and the rest of this loaded leaderboard, she’ll walk away with both Player of the Year and the $1 million jackpot, the latter for the third straight year. As for the event itself, Lincicome is vying for her seventh LPGA win, while Ryu, the 2011 U.S. Women’s Open champion, is benefitting from a change in attitude and trying to snap a two-year LPGA winless drought.

Round of the day: Eight back to start the day, Jutanugarn now finds herself just two behind after a bogey-free 7-under 65. After an even-par start in Round 1, she’s played her last 36 holes at Tiburon 11 under with only one dropped shot. Tied with Ko at 11 under, Jutanugarn is currently projected No. 1 in the CME standings. American Brittany Lang (-8) was also 7 under, circling seven of her last 11 holes.

Best of the rest: Six players – Hull, Lincicome, Song, Yang, Karine Icher and Carlota Cignada – turned in 6-under 66. Hull and Lincicome will play with Ryu in the final group Sunday.

Biggest disappointment: Ko was ahead by three to start the round and on a day with plenty of low scoring, she squandered that lead and now finds herself two behind. After trading three birdies and three bogeys to stay level through 17 holes, the world No. 1 dropped one more shot at 18 when her approach to the back-left pin skipped off the green, down the slope and into the water. She got up and down for a surprising 1-over 73. She was the only player in the top 18 on the leaderboard to shoot over par in Round 3.

Storyline to watch Sunday: It’s Ko vs. Jutanugarn for Player of the Year and the $1 million jackpot, but Ko is also locked in a tight battle with Chun for the Vare trophy for low scoring average.