PRESSEL AND KO TIED FOR LEAD AT 14-UNDER
Rolex Rankings No. 1 Lydia Ko shot a 28 on the back nine late in the afternoon wave to climb into a tie for the lead with American Morgan Pressel at the Walmart NW Arkansas Championship Presented by P&G. Ko finished with a round of 62, tying both her career low round and tournament course record at Pinnacle Country Club.
Pressel tied her career low of 63 on Saturday. The duo sits atop the leaderboard at 14-under par and two shots clear of Candie Kung of Chinese Taipei, China’s Jing Yan and Canadian Alena Sharp. Three players are tied for third and three shots back at 11-under par including Sandra Gal, Haeji Kang and Giulia Molinaro.
Ko is playing for her third victory this season and 13th overall while Pressel seeks her first win since the 2008 Kapalua LPGA Classic and third career victory.
Ko had a sensational back nine, which included four consecutive birdies on Nos. 11-14 and closed with a birdie on the 17th and an eagle on No. 18.
“I played well here the last few years, and I had, especially the last few years I’ve had really solid Sundays,” said Ko. “That kind of got me into the top 10 two years ago and it got me around to contend. But I love it here, and I really like the golf course, and, you know, to me I love a par 5 finishing hole. It can make it really exciting.”
Pressel is the only player in the field to go bogey-free in the first two rounds and finished birdie-birdie to get to 14-under.
“No bogeys means I wasn’t in a whole lot of trouble and certainly wasn’t in much trouble today,” said Pressel. “I kept the ball in play and gave myself a lot of birdie opportunities.”
This marks the fourth time in her career that Pressel will hold at least a share of the lead heading into Sunday and first time since the 2013 RICOH Women’s British Open where she held a one shot lead and finished in a tie for fourth.
Pressel has made 189 starts including this week since her last victory at the 2008 Kapalua LPGA Classic and has recorded six runner-ups in that stretch. She hopes to join Lexi Thompson (Honda LPGA Thailand) as the second American to win on Tour this season.
“Certainly winning is the goal, and what I’d like to do tomorrow, you know, step by step, you have to start with a good drive on the first hole and just if I play anywhere near like I did today, I think that I can get it done,” said Pressel. “I’m definitely in a good position, and I just am going to go to the range, make sure everything’s all set for tomorrow and ready to go, and come out swinging.”
Lydia Ko - When Co-Leading Into Final Round
|Event||Final Round Score||Result|
|2016 Coates Golf Championship||75||T3|
|2015 KEB HanaBank Championship||72||T4|
|2015 Canadian Pacific Women's Open||72||Won (in a playoff)|
|2015 ISPS Handa Australian Open||71||Won (by two shots)|
CHEERS TO THE WEEKEND
The cutline fell at 3-under par 139 with a total of 77 players making the cut. Notables to miss the cut: Paula Creamer (-2), Sei Young Kim (-2), Michelle Wie (E), Brooke Henderson (E), and defending champion Na Yeon Choi (+4)
This week marks Wie’s eighth missed cut out of 16 starts this season. It will be the first missed cut for Henderson this year and first since the 2015 Manulife LPGA Classic last June.
Two out of the five University of Arkansas Razorbacks in the field will play on Sunday. Gaby Lopez made an eagle on the 18th hole to get to -3, while Stacy Lewis shot a second round 70 to finish at -5 for the tournament.
LOOKING FOR A BREAKTHROUGH
Second-year Tour member Jing Yan hopes she’s on the brink of a breakthrough. The former University of Washington Huskie has had an up-and-down season with seven missed cuts in 13 starts. She has one top-10 finish, a fifth place, earlier this month at the ShopRite Classic.
“Well, I think this week I’m hitting it a lot better and I’m making a lot of putts, so those two things I have been really on and off this year,” said Yan. “At ShopRite they were really good and at a lot of other events they really weren’t, and it really showed when I didn’t play very well through my long game. I struggled to have lots of birdie opportunities and get higher up on the leader board, so this week I felt like a little bit of change in my swing, really comfortable, striking the ball.”
Yan is the third-highest ranked Chinese player in the world at No. 119 and will be a member of Team China next month at the UL International Crown.
Jing Yan's Recent Tournament Results
|Meijer LPGA Classic For Simply Give||63T|
|KPMG Women's PGA Championship||Cut|
|ShopRite LPGA Classic Presented by Acer||5|
|LPGA Volvik Championship||Cut|
|Kingsmill Championship Presented by JTBC||Cut|
|Yokohama Tire LPGA Classic||15T|
2016 in a Nutshell: 13 starts, 6 cuts made, Best Finish: 5th at ShopRite LPGA Classic Presented by Acer, YTD Earnings: $105,946, Rds. in 60s: 9 (2 this week), Previous Low Rd.: 66 (Rd. 3, ShopRite LPGA Classic Presented by Acer)
Haeji Kang had ten birdies during her round of 8-under 63 on Saturday, including eight in her first twelve holes. The No. 344 player in the Rolex Rankings joins Ariya Jutanugarn and Megan Khang for the most sub-par holes in a single round this season.
SHE’S THINKING ABOUT IT
Sandra Gal has seemed to find her form in her ninth appearance at the Walmart NW Arkansas Championship. She posted her two lowest rounds of the year the past two days (65-66) in Arkansas. Her best finish this year was T13 at the HSBC Women’s Champions. The German said it’s been a tough season for her so far and has been working on every aspect of her game. She also started using a Focus Band, a device that studies brain activity.
“It just kind of tells you whether you are left brain or right brain,” said Gal. “So you want to be in your right brain when you are executing shots, and that’s basically a quiet mind. So you’re just working on, you know, being as athletic as you can during your routine.”
Gal, whose only LPGA Tour win came back in 2011 at the Kia Classic, has now made 136 starts since her lone victory. She said she won’t start the day on Sunday with a number in mind but know she’ll have to go low.
“I just want to enjoy it, which that’s a cliche, but it’s true. I want to enjoy it and play well, and I don’t want to put a score out there,” said Gal. “I haven’t the last two days. So if I just kind of go play and hit one shot at a time, I think whatever happens, happens. You know, if you put too much pressure on yourself to score, I think some people do that and they play well. I’m not going to do that.”
Thailand’s Moriya Jutanugarn currently sits four shots off of the lead at 10-under after consecutive rounds of 66 at the Walmart NW Arkansas Championship Presented by P&G. The No. 95 player in the Rolex Rankings has watched her sister, Ariya, win three times in 2016 and climb up to No. 7 in the world. Moriya has the upper hand so far this week as her younger sister is tied for 31st at 5-under through Saturday.
“We try to beat each other all the time,” the older Jutanugarn said. “I’m happy I beat her. It’s one more day. I don’t want to say I already beat her, but I’m really happy with it. I mean, I’m also really happy when I see when I see her play pretty good, and actually, she is playing good.”
The Jutanugarn pair will team up with fellow Thai players Pornanong Phatlum (Rolex Rankings No. 32) and Porani Chutichai (Rolex Rankings No. 167) for #6 seed Team Thailand in next month’s UL International Crown, played at Merit Club in Gurnee, Illinois.
NUMBERS TO KNOW
21 - Players within four shots of the lead after the first round
7 - Players in the top-13 who are playing for their first career LPGA title (Sharp, Yan, Kang, Molinaro, M. Jutanugarn, Tan, Ciganda)
11 - Different countries represented in the top-13 on the leaderboard (New Zealand, United States, Canada, China, Chinese Taipei, South Korea, Italy, Germany, Thailand, Malaysia, Spain)
189 - Number of starts Morgan Pressel has made since her last victory at the 2008 Kapalua LPGA Classic