Ally Ewing (20) def. Ariya Jutanugarn (16), 3 and 2
A year ago today, Ally Ewing was getting married. Today, she’ll compete in the championship match at the Bank of Hope LPGA Match-Play hosted by Shadow Creek.
The Mississippi State University alumna kicked off her anniversary celebrations with a 3-and-2 victory over Ariya Jutanugarn this morning. Ewing never trailed in the match.
“It’s great that he [husband Charlie] is here,” said Ewing. “He has a super busy job as a college golf coach [at Mississippi State] and recruiting is opening up pretty soon. Thankfully, he can be here this week. Playing well and having him here has been great.”
It was the first time all week at Shadow Creek, between group play and bracket play, that Ewing did not face a deficit in her match. She will use all the experiences heading into the finals.
“I would probably say in some shape and form, I played a little more tentatively,” Ewing said. “I didn't make a very good swing [on 15] but I knew I was in the driver's seat, 4-up with four holes to play. On 16, I hit my drive a little left and didn't hit a very good punch shot from there. Told myself if I could get a ball up next to the green for a birdie putt, it might apply a little pressure knowing if I can two-putt she has to for sure birdie. If I take care of the shots I need to and stay in my own lane, kind of like I have all week, I should be able to pull out the win.”
Ewing also understands fatigue will be a big factor when she tees it up against Sophia Popov.
“Let's just say it's really hot. I'm going through my shoes because I'm sweating, and I have never had my feet this taped up from all the elevation changes, side-hill walks, uphill walks, hot temperatures, 36-hole days. That's not something we do very often on the LPGA,” said Ewing, a Rolex First-Time Winner at the 2020 Drive On Championship at Reynolds Lake Oconee. “It's just a little bit different of a grind this week. Certainly, when you signed up for the week, you said, ‘Hey, if I can play all those holes, then it is going to be well worth it.’ I need to be a little bit mentally sharp in the afternoon.”
Sophia Popov (15) def. Shanshan Feng (19), 1 up
The second semifinal match at the Bank of Hope LPGA Match-Play Hosted by Shadow Creek was a close-fought affair between Sophia Popov and Shanshan Feng. Feng won the first hole with par to go 1 up and held a 2-up advantage through 11 holes but made a bogey at No. 12 to open the door for Popov.
The German major champion tied the match with a birdie at No. 13 and took the lead with a par at No. 17, earning the victory with a short birdie putt to tie on No. 18.
“I left myself so many nail-biters coming down the stretch,” said Popov. “I think I had to make, feels like four or five 5-footers to stay in it, and then about a 6-footer at the end to win the match. I think it's just sigh of relief that it's over and that I was able to pull through.”
While general spectators are still not permitted on the course, players have been able to invite family and friends to enjoy the spectacular Shadow Creek layout. Popov’s parents have followed her every step of the way, as have her brother, his wife and their three daughters. Popov has called the girls her lucky charms and even had little Liviana join her the microphone for her post-round interview.
I never have them out, so even for my first win overseas I didn't have anyone out there, except for my boyfriend Max obviously, and now he's the one person missing, which is very sad because I would love to have him here,” said Popov, with Liviana clutching at her legs. “Other than that, just amazing to have the whole family out, and they give me so much energy. No matter, that's the greatest part. The outcome doesn't matter. These girls will hug me anyway, love me anyway, and vice versa.”