NEW GROUND FOR UEHARA
Ayako Uehara will be playing in the final group at a major championship for the first time in her career on Sunday. The 33-year-old, who’s best career finish in a major is T17 at the 2013 Ricoh Women’s British Open, is in solo second place just one shot off of the lead.
“Right now I’m so excited,” Uehara said. “But I think tomorrow I’ll be nervous, but I want to enjoy everything.”
Her stellar play comes during the final tournament of countrywomen Ai Miyazato’s LPGA career.
“When I was amateur we played together, and also we are good friends, so tomorrow is her last event, so I’m so sad, but after she retires, she can do like a good more second career, so I want to cheer for her.”
FENG FIRMLY BACK IN THE MIX
Shanshan Feng already has two top-7 finishes in major championships this season and has positioned herself for another prime result this week at The Evian Championship. She enters the final round looking to add to an already stellar resume here where she has finished inside the top 10 in each of the last three years and just outside in 2013 (T11).
Feng played in the final group at the U.S. Women’s Open, but a final round 3-over par 75 led to a fifth place result. The seven-time LPGA winner said she doesn’t think about that result much anymore.
“No, because I was still happy,” Feng said. “I mean, like I said at the press conference afterwards, because my goal was -- I didn’t set any goals going to the U.S. Open, and I would think maybe top 10 would be a great result for me, and I actually ended up having a top 5, so nothing to complain. I mean, maybe I could go a little bit higher, but that was still good. I didn’t really think about it, and afterwards I think I’ve been playing decent, also.
SONG LOOKING FOR CAREER-BEST MAJOR FINISH
Since joining the LPGA Tour in 2011, Jennifer Song has been looking for her career breakthrough. Perhaps Sunday at Evian will finally be the day. Song shot a bogey-free 5-under 65 on Saturday and sits four strokes behind leader Moriya Jutanugarn heading into tomorrow’s final round of The Evian Championship.
“I really enjoyed my round today,” said Song, who has two career-top 10 finishes. “I had some struggles here and there. I missed some tee shots that went into the rough, but I made great up-and-downs, and I was so surprised that I had a bogey-free round because usually I make a lot of bogeys, which gets me upset, but I’m really happy about today.”
Song has yet to crack the top 10 at a major championship, although she performed well here at Evian the last two years (T16 in 2015 and T17 in 2016). The 65 she returned on Saturday is tied for the lowest round of her career, and she knows that she’ll need to duplicate that effort on Sunday to give herself a chance for that elusive first LPGA win.
“I definitely think that I need to go low because there are a lot of great players out here and greens are soft, so it’s very easy to attack the pins,” said Song. “I definitely need to play aggressive tomorrow.”
CAREER REJUVENATION FOR KIRK
The last two years have been a self-admitted struggle for Katherine Kirk. The 13-year LPGA Tour veteran from Australia, who now makes her home in Kansas, did not have a single top-10 finish in 2015 or 2016, and only made 19 of 38 cuts. To say she was frustrated was an understatement – she even questioned how much longer she wanted to play.
But two years of hard work and no payoff changed on July 9, when she won the Thornberry Creek LPGA Classic, her first LPGA win since 2010. It was a key moment of career and personal renewal for Kirk, one of the most outgoing players on Tour.
“Nice to know you can still do it at 35 years old and as one of the older players out here,” said Kirk. “Golf is funny; I wasn’t expecting it for sure, but yeah, I kind of surprised myself even, and certainly since then, it’s just, yeah, been nice. Hey, you know what, I can win out here, and just keep believing and keep doing the right things, and you never know what happens.”
This week marks Kirk’s first return to Evian since 2014, and she’s certainly making the most of the experience. Rounds of 66 and 69, two of her best rounds ever at Evian Resort Golf Club, have her in solo third and just two strokes off the lead held by Moriya Jutanugarn.
“There’s no easy holes out there, so I think that kind of helps keep me engaged, keep me focused,” said Kirk, whose best Evian finish was a T15 result in 2013. “I think sometimes when we play wide-open golf courses and maybe some more resort style, I get a little lazy, so the fact that I have to pay attention here on every shot makes me probably a little bit better.”
WHAT TO WATCH FOR - RACE TO THE CME GLOBE
Not to be lost with everything that is at stake at The Evian Championship is players’ position in the season-long Race to the CME Globe. The top-72 LPGA members (plus ties) on the Race to the CME Globe Points Standings, ranked in the order of their position on the standings at the conclusion of the Blue Bay LPGA, make up the field at the CME Group Tour Championship, the LPGA’s season finale which features the largest purse amongst non-majors at $2.5 million.
This week is particularly important for players on the edge of the top 72 in the standings - the upcoming schedule in the Eastern Hemisphere features a slate of events that are limited in field size. Thus, The Evian Championship represents the final push for several players who are close to the standings.
Three players are currently tied for the 73rd position in the standings with 409 points - Ryann O’Toole, Tiffany Joh and Ally McDonald. Notable players outside of the top 72 in the current standings include rookies Aditi Ashok (76), Emily K. Pedersen (78), Olafia Kristinsdottir (79) and Mel Reid, as well as Americans Alison Lee (80), Paula Creamer (87) and Christina Kim (92).
For more details on the Race to the CME Globe, including points breakdown, standings and CME Group Tour Championship eligibility click here.