Lydia Ko of New Zealand used back-to-back late birdies on Saturday to shoot 3-under 68 and extend her lead to four strokes through three rounds of the Marathon Classic in Sylvania, Ohio.
Ko, who said afterward she battled a back injury, sits at 16-under 197 through 54 holes at Highland Meadows Golf Club. Birdies at Nos. 16 and 17 helped her create some separation from Danielle Kang, who sits second at 12 under after shooting 70.
Australia's Minjee Lee and England's Jodi Ewart Shadoff are tied for third at 10 under after heading in opposite directions, as Lee shot 68 and Eward Shadoff -- who was one back of Ko's lead entering the day -- shot 73. Lindsey Weaver (9 under) and Puerto Rico's Maria Fernanda Torres (8 under) are close behind after both shot 67.
Ko, who shared the lead with Kang after one round, came out firing with a birdie at the par-3 second, tapping in after her tee shot came up just a few inches shy of a hole-in-one. She followed with a bogey at No. 3, then added a birdie at the sixth.
After nine straight pars, the former world No. 1 buried a short birdie putt at the par-4 16th before dropping a 12-footer dead center in the cup at the par-5 17th.
She said afterward she can manage her injury by continuing to play aggressively.
"Even though the pain is there I feel like when I hit it hard, my body is not flinching over that area," Ko said. "I just have to not worry about it."
A 15-time winner on the LPGA Tour -- including victories at the Marathon Classic in 2014 and 2016 -- Ko is looking for her first title since 2018.
Kang, who won last week in the LPGA's return from the pandemic-forced hiatus, drew as close as two strokes with a birdie at 14. But she followed it up with a bogey before recovering with a birdie at 17. She totaled three birdies and two bogeys on the day, lamenting some missed opportunities.
"I missed three putts from five feet," Kang said afterward. "It's very frustrating when you miss those and other birdie opportunities, it doesn't give you a good momentum for the following holes."
Lee climbed up the leaderboard with three birdies in her first seven holes and remained at 10 under for the tournament through 11. Bogeys at 12 and 15 spoiled the momentum, but she holed out from a greenside bunker at 18 to make eagle and get back into the picture.
Ewart Shadoff, who blistered a bogey-free 63 on Friday, never found her groove Saturday. Back-to-back bogeys at Nos. 3 and 4 dropped her three strokes back of Ko, and she never came closer, making her only birdie at No. 9 and one more bogey at 16.
--Field Level Media