Not So Lonely At The Top
Saturday, Kim Kaufman, Michelle Wie, Ariya Jutanugarn and Suzann Pettersen burst to the top of the leaderboard at the CME Group Tour Championship. The group was a collective 22-under par as they chased down 36-hole leader Sung Hyun Park.
Kaufman matched her low round of 2017 with an eight-under par, 64, to climb from a tie for 35th into a tie for second. Kaufman has been battling mononucleosis, which sidelined her from the last two events on Tour, but is feeling much better than she did a few weeks ago. Wie also went low, matching her low round at Tiburón Golf Club with a 66 to jump from a tie for 25th into a share of second. Jutanugarn credits a change in attitude for the turnaround late in the season. After ascending to world No. 1 in June, Jutanugarn missed the cut in the remaining majors of the season and just last week at Blue Bay LPGA posted her best finish since June with a tie for 16th. She’s carried that momentum into Naples where she continues to feed off the good vibes she has from last season when she won the $1 million dollar Race to the CME Globe and Rolex Player of the Year. Pettersen made up the least amount of ground on Saturday, climbing from a tie for seventh into the lead with a third round, 69.
No Walk In The Park
The seemingly unflappable Sung Hyun Park proved to be human on moving day. Park took a three-stroke lead into the weekend but struggled early with both her driver and irons. She pulled her approach long and right at the par four, second hole where she was unable to get up and down and dropped her first shot of the day. Ahead at the par five, sixth hole her drive ended up left of the fairway under a bush and she was forced to punch out. Her third shot landed up against the wall of the greenside bunker where she failed to escape and left her fourth shot in the sand. Park reached the green in five where she two-putted for a double bogey and lost the outright lead.
Park bounced back on the second nine with back-to-back birdies but struggled again on the closing stretch with bogeys on two of her last three holes to finish the day with a three-over par, 75. Remarkably, she’s still just one-stroke back of the lead heading into Sunday.
Thompson Eyes Trophy
Saturday, Lexi Thompson got one step closer to taking home this season’s biggest honors. She opened with a double-bogey to start her day but rallied five birdies to shoot a third round, 69 and climb to nine-under par for the championship.
Thompson led the Tour in scoring average heading into the week. By going low on Saturday, and matching Park at nine-under par, she’s made it nearly impossible for Park to pass her in scoring average. Park would need to finish Sunday’s round nine or ten strokes better than Thompson in order to win the Trophy. Thompson also returned to No. 1 in the projected standings to win the Race to the CME Globe.
Sandra Gal withdrew from the third round of the CME Group Tour Championship due to back spasms. She took to Instagram to share the news with her fans and is scheduled on Monday to host her annual charity event, The Sandra Gal Challenge, at nearby Bradenton Golf Club.