DALY CITY – On a windy moving day at Lake Merced Golf Club, 36-hole leader Haru Nomura remained in control of her game.
Nomura weathered the blustery conditions to post a third round 1-under par, 71 to maintain her lead at the Swinging Skirts LPGA Classic. She holds a three-stroke lead ahead of Lee-Anne Pace and Na Yeon Choi at 7-under par. Nomura, Pace and Choi were the only players who started the day in the top-10 to card rounds under par.
Paired with Minjee Lee on Saturday, Nomura had an up and down day that included three birdies and two-bogeys, hitting just 11 of 14 fairways and 13 of 18 greens, but remained maintained her lead as players surrounding her on the leaderboard continued to back up.
After the round, Nomura and her caddie Jason McDede as well as playing partner Minjee Lee met with LPGA rules officials for around 45-minutes about Nomura’s stance in the greenside bunker at the 6th hole where she was seen having trouble taking a stance.
“What happened was the bunker on No. 6, the greenside bunker on the left, it was slopey, so I was trying to take a stance, but I kept slipping downhill, and in order to get a firm stance, I had to -- even when I had to do a practice swing, I had to swing real hard, and when I did, I kept moving forward again and again,” Nomura said after her round. “There was no option but to move like that, but they were saying that I was moving excessively, but what I was trying to tell them was, okay, then what is the guideline. There should be some sort of a standard, a regulation that explains what a fraction is and not. So that was what was going on.”
Statement from the LPGA Rules Committee:
A player is entitled to place her feet firmly in taking his stance, but she must not build a stance.
An email was sent to LPGA.com stating Haru may have violated Rule 13-3 - by "building a stance" in the greenside bunker on Hole #6. This was relayed to the Rules Committee who went to the television production trailer to review the footage of the incident. The Committee reviewed the video, and after a discussion with the player and her caddie, it was determined that no breach occurred."
The last time Nomura held the lead entering the final round she went on to win her first event on Tour, capturing the ISPS Handa Women’s Australian Open in February. A win here on Sunday would make Nomura the third two-time winner in 2016, joining Ha Na Jang and Lydia Ko as the only other players to accomplish the feat so far this season.
Three-back of Nomura entering the final round, Lee-Anne Pace carded one of the low rounds of the day on Saturday with a 3-under par 69.
“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,” Pace said after her round. “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.”
Pace is coming off back-to-back top-15 finishes thanks to some changes she made with her caddie, changing her fitness routine and beginning work with a sports psychologist. Click here for the story from the ANA Inspiration.
T-2 with Pace is Na Yeon Choi, who posted a 1-under par, 71 on Saturday. Unable to make up any ground on moving day, Choi ended the day exactly where she started, 3-back of Nomura.
“It was tough. I think especially greens were so firm and a lot of holes have front pins, so it's hard to stop the ball around the pin. The only into the wind hole I can stop the ball, so it was a little tough, especially even when I hit a wedge shot to the green,” said Choi. “I made a lot of par putts out there, and I was a little aggressive on the front nine. It was good. But I started with two bogeys on the back nine, and it's getting harder for the back nine. But I'm happy with my score right now.
Brooke Henderson did make up some ground on Saturday, carding a 3-under par, 69 to move to 5-under par and T-4 with Catriona Matthew, Gerina Piller and So Yeon Ryu. After leaving her approach to the green at the par 5, 18th hole short of the green, Henderson holed her chip to finish with a birdie.
Two-time defending champion Lydia Ko posted a 1-over par, 73 on Saturday to finish at 4-under par and T-8 with Minjee Lee.
“But you know, my game wasn't really up to it today. It was pretty average. But I felt like chipping, short game wise it was good, but I wasn't making the putts that needed to go in for birdie or those crucial par saves, so I think that was the difference from today to yesterday,” Ko said. “But no, overall, obviously there wasn't a lot going on today because there was only two birdies and three bogeys, so there wasn't a lot happening in my round, but I definitely think it could have been worse.”