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Blemish-free 66 propels ‘excited’ Leona Maguire into contention at $5 million CME Group Tour Championship

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Leona Maguire of Ireland lines up a putt on the 16th green during the third round of the CME Group Tour Championship at Tiburon Golf n Naples, Florida. (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)

Leona Maguire of Ireland lines up a putt on the 16th green during the third round of the CME Group Tour Championship at Tiburon Golf n Naples, Florida. (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)

Leona Maguire of Ireland lines up a putt on the 16th green during the third round of the CME Group Tour Championship at Tiburon Golf n Naples, Florida. (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)

Leona Maguire can take her season's earnings to a cool $2.32 million after a bogey-free 66 left her just two shots off the pace heading into the final round of the $5 million CME Group Tour Championship in Florida.

The Co Cavan battler (26) is chasing the biggest first prize in women's golf of $1.5 m (€1.32m) after she overcame breezy conditions at Tiburón Golf Club in Naples and knocked in six birdies in a bogey-free round to share seventh place on 12-under par.

Maguire is just two shots behind her former college team mate Celine Boutier (72), Japan's Nasa Hataoka (64) and the two players vying for the Rolex Player of the Year award, world number two Jin Young Ko (66) and world number one Nelly Korda (67).

She believes she will have to go low again on Sunday to claim her maiden win, but she's no stranger to low numbers after closing with a 10-under 61 in July's Amundi Evian Championship and opening with an eight-under 62 in last week's Pelican Women's Championship.

"There is a lot of great golfers ahead of me on the leaderboard, and around me, so it's going to take another low one," Leona said after following birdies at the third, fourth, sixth, eighth and 10th with a sixth from 15 feet at the 18th

"I think it's the toughest day so far," Maguire said after her career-low round at Tiburón. "It was windy; it was gusty. I had to stay really patient, and I feel like we did a pretty good job sort of judging the wind, picking our targets, and executed pretty well."

She's happy to have to make birdies, but she also knows it's a course that requires tactical astuteness and that suits her game too.

| It's a golf course you have to stay really patient on, take your chances when you get them, and be smart about it," she said. "So that's the kind of golf I like, so excited for another day."

She had a chance to claim her maiden title in the Pelican Women's Championship last week, but while she faded to tied 28th following a final round 75, she's treating this week as a bonus.

"I tried to take as many positives from last week as I could," added Maguire, who has had five top 10s, including two runner-up finishes this season. "I didn't finish the last round off as well as I would've liked, but I know my game is in good shape and just need to hole a few putts.

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"I didn't hole any yesterday, but a few more dropped today, so, yeah, one more good round tomorrow to finish off the season hopefully."

Just three strokes cover the top-12 on the leaderboard, and it promises to be a thrilling finale.

Ko needs a second-place finish or better to have a chance of denying Korda the Rolex Player of the Year award, and after making seven birdies in a row from the second on the front nine, she bogeyed the ninth and parred her way home to share the lead.

Olympic champion Korda looked set to trail as she made five birdies and two bogeys before an eagle three at the 17th saw her draw level at the top of the leaderboard.

"I felt like I was struggling a little all day, not kind of converting any putts and kind of not hitting it too great, but that eagle definitely helped," Korda said after her 67.


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