Less than a month ago, Angel Yin and Maja Stark fought their hearts out for the United States and Europe, respectively, in their effort to secure the prestigious Solheim Cup at Finca Cortesin for their home country. Though they never faced each other head-to-head, the two young guns will now battle it out individually in the final grouping for the Buick LPGA Shanghai title as they hold the 54-hole co-lead at Qizhong Garden Golf Club at -12.
Stark admitted it wasn’t her typical ball-striking showing on Saturday, but credited her putting in keeping her at the top of the leaderboard. Starting the day with the lead, a bogey on No. 3 brought her down a peg, though two birdies before the turn on Nos. 6 and 9 helped keep her afloat as she stared down the final nine holes. The Swede then rebounded after a bogey on No. 12 with back-to-back birdies on 13 and 14. An unfortunate three-putt on the par-5 17th disappointed the 23-year-old, but a 2-under 70 was good enough to put her within striking distance of her second LPGA Tour title.
“It would mean a lot to win it just it prove to myself that I can actually do it when we have a lot of top players here,” said Stark, who is looking to become the season’s fourth wire-to-wire winner.
Yin on the other hand, played like she had nothing to lose, posting a 7-under 65, her best 18-hole score since the third round of the 2021 Honda LPGA Thailand. Citing “bad communication” with her caddie for a three-putt bogey on No. 1, Yin carded eight birdies afterwards, including five in her last eight holes for a back-nine 31.
“I'm just going to try to live in the moment, what's in front of me, and try to hit my shots and stop living in my own head and overthinking everything,” said Yin, who is looking to become the 12th Rolex First-Time Winner on Tour in 2023. “And then if it works out, it works out, because golf is difficult, because it could be just like tomorrow is like today, you know, but we put an end to it.”
Pavarisa Yoktuan sits in a tie for third at -11 after a third-round 69, and will meet Stark and Yin that final grouping. After regaining her LPGA Tour status for 2023 through Q-Series, she’s posted three top-20 finishes this season but has yet to crack the top 10 through 18 events. Her lone top-10 finish of her career came at the 2019 Dana Open, where she finished in a tie for fifth. Yoktuan, who won on the CLPGA back in 2014, said she’ll lean on her iron play on Sunday to potentially step inside the winner’s circle for the first time on Tour in her 81st career start.
“I just do the same thing, like what I've been doing the past three days. Focus on the same thing. Not think about whether I win or not. It doesn't matter as long as I'm happy my golf game,” said Yoktuan. “I'm just happy to be here and I'm happy with my golf game for the past three days, so [I] just want to finish the round, finish my week with my best feelings.”
LPGA Tour winners Lilia Vu, Mi Hyang Lee and Ariya Jutanugarn are tied for fourth at -10, while Esther Henseleit and Yu Liu lurk at -9 in a tie for seventh. Add in the eight players in a tie for ninth at -8, a total of 14 players sit within four strokes of Yin and Stark at -12, including major champion Minjee Lee and two-time Buick LPGA Shanghai champion Danielle Kang. Rolex Rankings No. 2 Ruoning Yin carded a 2-over 74 on Saturday, her highest round since a 78 on the final day of the AIG Women’s Open, and sits in a tie for 47th at -1.