FOUR-WAY TIE FOR THE LEAD AFTER 18 HOLES IN ANN ARBOR
It’s a packed leaderboard at the 2018 LPGA Volvik Championship, with four players tied for the lead after 18 holes at Travis Pointe Country Club. Moriya Jutanugarn, who won the 2018 HUGEL-JTBC LA Open in April for her first LPGA win, carded a bogey-free 6-under 66 on Thursday, as did 2017 KPMG Women’s PGA Championship winner Danielle Kang. They are joined by Amy Olson, who is looking to join Jutanugarn as a Rolex First-Time Winner in 2018, and Caroline Masson, whose lone LPGA win came at the 2016 Manulife LPGA Classic.
Seven players sit tied for fifth: 2018 Honda LPGA Thailand winner Jessica Korda; Nasa Hataoka, who was runner-up at last week’s Kingsmill Championship presented by GEICO; 2017 LPGA Volvik runner-up Minjee Lee; Lindy Duncan; Morgan Pressel; Megan Khang; and Jodi Ewart Shadoff.
Jutanugarn and Korda are trying to become just the second repeat winner of the 2018 LPGA season, which has seen 12 different winners through as many events.
HOT-HANDED HATAOKA ON BOGEY-FREE STREAK
Nasa Hataoka returned a bogey-free 5-under 67 on Thursday, marking her fourth consecutive bogey-free round. Hataoka shot bogey-free rounds of 67-66-66 at last week’s Kingsmill Championship presented by GEICO, where she fell to Ariya Jutanugarn on the second sudden-death playoff hole. Her last bogey came at the LPGA MEDIHEAL Championship, where she bogeyed the 16th hole of the fourth round.
U.S. WOMEN’S OPEN WATCH
The LPGA Volvik Championship marks the final opportunity for LPGA players to win and earn a full exemption into next week’s U.S. Women’s Open Championship. With 76 Volvik competitors not yet in the Women’s Open field, there’s a good chance someone could have the tricky, yet welcome, task of rearranging travel for a last-minute trip to Birmingham, Alabama, and the Jack Nicklaus-designed Shoal Creek.
Co-leader Amy Olson hopes to compete in her third U.S. Women’s Open, but would also be just as happy with a quiet week at home.
“I would love to play. The U.S. Open is a great event,” said Olson, who grabbed the golf world’s attention in 2011 when, as an 18-year old amateur, she tied for second after the first round at The Broadmoor in Colorado. “But at this point it’s going to be an off week with my husband and that’s not a bad alternative, either.”
Morgan Pressel also showed early U.S. Women’s Open brilliance, making her debut in 2001 at age 13 and then tying for second in 2005 at age 17. Now a fresh 30-year-old (she celebrated her birthday on Wednesday), Pressel could miss her national championship for the first time since 2004.
“It’s definitely in the back of my mind. This is essentially my last shot,” said Pressel, whose opening-round 67 puts her a tie for fifth and right in the hunt for the win. “Had plenty of chances to qualify and haven’t made it, so it’s definitely on my mind. But there’s a long way to go and I just -- for me, it’s really about putting solid rounds of golf together. It’s a long season and I’m just happy to be a little bit more confident in my golf game.”
RANKIN, LPGA PLAYERS REMEMBER LPGA LEGEND MANN
The LPGA and the entire golf world were saddened on Monday when news broke of the death of LPGA legend Carol Mann. The World Golf Hall of Famer and two-time major champion was honored on Thursday, as players wore black ribbons in memory of the 6-foot-3-inch Mann, who was just as successful off the course as she was between the ropes.
Golf Channel announcer and beloved LPGA icon Judy Rankin also donned a black ribbon during today’s television broadcast. She referred to her dear friend as a “visionary” who would be greatly missed.
“She was such a significant person in golf and in women’s golf, more significant than I think most people know,” said Rankin, who first met Mann as a 17-year-old LPGA rookie in 1962. “But she did serve as the president of the LPGA at a time when there were big changes in the LPGA. Not everyone agreed with what she thought, but she made a lot of things come to be in the early and mid-70s.”