Thursday at the Bank of Hope LPGA Match-Play presented by MGM Rewards saw LPGA Tour rookie Allisen Corpuz take on LPGA Tour winner Matilda Castren. It was bound to be a good match, especially considering their respective histories. Last year, Corpuz went undefeated in her three matches at the 41st Curtis Cup, a 3-0-0 record that helped the United States to a win in Wales. And no one will ever forget Castren making her knee-knocking par putt on the 18th green to win, 1 up, over Lizette Salas at Inverness Club in Toledo, clinching the 2021 Solheim Cup for Team Europe.
Corpuz went 2 up early with pars on No. 1 and No. 3 and Castren birdied the fourth to cut the deficit to one. The two went back-and-forth on holes 6 and 7 with Castren finally tying the match on the ninth with a birdie. After a Corpuz birdie on the 10th to go 1 up, Castren flipped the match, winning holes 11 and 12 with a par and a birdie. A bogey for Corpuz and a double for Castren tied the match again on the 15th and the two came to 18 looking for some magic. The match seemed decided when Castren stuffed her approach on the par 4 and Corpuz conceded the birdie, but the 24-year-old was far from done hustling. Putting from off the green, Corpuz rammed in her improbable birdie, tying the match and earning each player a half point.
“That's one of the ones it was straight downhill,” said Corpuz. “I kind of knew there was no way to leave it short and also it was one of those putts where you really have nothing to lose. Just picked a good line and hit a good putt and luckily it hit the hole. It was a tough putt, which I think makes it a little more relaxed, where you want it to go in but you're not really expecting it to go in.”
Castren was understandably frustrated by the tie – she also tied her first match with Sarah Schmelzel – but knows that anything can happen in match play and was proud of her effort on day two. “It was a great match. I think we both played great. I had kind of a slow start. I didn't really make any birdies. In the middle, I made a few putts and managed to gain some momentum there and the last I would say four or five holes was just a grind. She really kept me on my toes. I'm not going to lie, that 18th hole really stings still.”
Corpuz currently leads the pod with 1.5 points and is set to face fellow American Schmelzel on Friday. While she’s fairly soft-spoken, Corpuz gets steely-eyed when match play is involved so rest assured that the youngster won’t be backing down from any challenges that may crop up at Shadow Creek tomorrow.
“I think this is such a perfect course for match play. You'll have a couple of holes where you have a good birdie opportunity and then you'll also have a couple where par is going to be really tough and par will have a pretty good chance of winning,” Corpuz said. “I think my game has been in a good spot. Missed the cut at Founders, but it kind of felt like everything didn't quite click there. Kind of tightened up the game leading into this week. Really just trying to take it one hole at a time and telling myself the match is never really over until it's over.”
As for Castren, who’s only a half-point down, the game plan doesn’t change and just like she has the last two days, the Finn is going to come out swinging with another tough match on deck. “I'm trying to win every hole that I'm playing. I'm going to try to do the same tomorrow,” she said. “All I can control is my own game and my own routine and my own thoughts so I'm just going to play my own game and see what happens. I know it's going to be a tight match again. All players in my group are very strong and have been playing very well this year so I expected some tight matches and I've got that so far. I don't expect anything to change tomorrow.”