Japan’s Haru Nomura (-10) holds the 54-hole lead heading into the final round of the Swinging Skirts LPGA Classic after a third round 71. Nomura has led after 54 holes one other time in her career and that came in her win earlier this year at the ISPS Handa Australian Open. She heads into the final round trying to become the first Japanese player to win twice within one year on the LPGA Tour since Ai Miyazato in 2012.
Nomura finished Saturday’s round with a 1-under 71. A viewer notified officials during the round that Nomura may have cause a rules infraction of “building a stance” (Rule 13-3) in a greenside bunker on the sixth hole. But after discussion between the rules committee, Nomura and her caddie, it was determined that no breach occurred.
“For me the two-stroke penalty, it wouldn’t really have made a big difference,” Nomura said through an interpreter.
Nomura shot a final round 65 at the ISPS Handa Australian Women’s Open in February to hold off world No. 1 Lydia Ko for her first career LPGA title and said that her confidence is at an all-time high.
“I mean, you could say it’s confidence and you can call it what it is, but what I feel right now is I feel very comfortable about golf,” said Nomura. “I just want to have fun. I’m not thinking about trying to beat someone. It’s really about having fun.”
Lee-Anne Pace (-7) and Na Yeon Choi (-7) sit three shots back at -7 for the tournament. Pace, who fired a 3-under 69 in the third round, is looking for her second career LPGA victory and first since the 2014 Blue Bay LPGA in China. The South African is also looking for her third consecutive top-15 finish - something she has never done in her LPGA career.
“The pins are definitely tougher, especially on the front nine, a lot of longer irons with tightly tucked pins so you had to play to the middle of the green,” said Pace. “Lots of up-and-downs on the front nine, and then I think I birdied 9, hit it on the green, so that got me going, and I made some birdies on the back and made some putts.”
COMFORT ON THE COURSE
Na Yeon Choi was one of the few players who was able to shoot under par on Saturday at Lake Merced, firing a third round 71 which puts her in a tie for second with Lee-Anne Pace going into Sunday. Part of her comfort level on the course could have stemmed from being paired with fellow Korean So Yeon Ryu. Choi estimated that the two have known each other for about 15 years going back to their days playing in junior golf tournaments against one another.
“Just very comfortable,” Choi said of Saturday’s pairing with Ryu. “We know each other so well, and every time we had a birdie or a good putt, we fist bumped, so we really enjoyed playing together. I wish she had better luck today. She had bad luck today on hole 15, but I think we both enjoyed it.”
Choi goes into the final round attempting to capture her 10th career victory and her first since the 2015 Walmart NW Arkansas Championship. The No. 7 ranked player in the Rolex Rankings will join 18-year-old Brooke Henderson (T4, -5) in the group preceding the final pairing on Sunday.
BROOKE MAKING A MOVE
Brooke Henderson started the day T16 and seven shots off the lead but has closed the gap thanks to a 3-under 69 today. It was a day that saw many in the field struggle to get anything going and Brooke was trying to make something happen on 18.
“I was trying to find a birdie there on 18, but kind of mis-hit my approach shot there, but was able to come back with a nice chip-in and make the day feel a little bit better than it was,” Henderson described.
Despite her eight consecutive top-10 finishes, Brooke Henderson feels there is more work to do before she would describe her game as “good.”
“I’m really happy with the top-10s,” Henderson said. “I think every tournament, though, there’s been a day or a couple shots that I’d like to get back, but everybody has those, so I think just continuing to be more consistent and continuing to be a little bit better.”
A STREAK OF 69s
Lee-Anne Pace and her caddie began the day trying to find a new pair of contacts for her caddie, Chad Payne, who had lost one of his earlier. His South African prescription couldn’t be filled in the U.S. so they had to make a stop at a doctor to get a new prescription. His ability to read the greens came in handy today as Pace carded a third round 69—their goal coming into the day.
“It’s a funny story, I’ve had 69 for five out of the last six rounds, so we just went with that, and funny enough, it happened again today, so it seems to be our lucky number,” Pace explained. “It pops up everywhere for us, so that was it.”
Pace made some changes at the end of last year, including strength training and work with her mental coach, and it has paid off.
“I took like three months off and I really went hard at it in the gym and I worked on my swing and just a lot of training, like I said last summer,” Pace said. “I really think it’s working, and I spoke to my mental guy (Eugene Oppelette) last week, gave me some good tips. We’re just working on important things, staying patient. In the past I wasn’t patient enough, and now it’s shining through, but also the ball striking has been really good. Been working harder than usual, and it’s paying off.”
“Tomorrow I’ve just got to stay positive, enjoy it, and it’s my birthday anyway, so there’s a lot more things that I can think about and smile about. I’m just going to enjoy it. It’s been really cool to even have the chance to be close to the three-peat, so I feel very fortunate with that, and hopefully tomorrow a few more putts will fall.”- Lydia Ko on her chances of a three-peat, sitting six shots back of leader Haru Nomura
“I mean, here I don’t think you move - I don’t think the scores sort of move drastically. It’s just like you make pars and a couple birdies here and there. It’s not like a course where you can be super aggressive and get away with it.” - Minjee Lee on the potential to make a run in the final round to win at Lake Merced Golf Club. She shot a final round 64 and came from five shots back to win last week at the LOTTE Championship.