NAPLES, Fla. — Four-time LPGA Tour winner Amy Yang continued her tear of excellent golf on Saturday at Tiburón Golf Club, backing up her second-round, 9-under 63 with an 8-under 64 on Moving Day at the CME Group Tour Championship. Starting the day in a tie for third at 14-under, the 34-year-old got things going early with a birdie on the par-5 1st hole to move to 15-under. She struck again after parring holes 2 through 4, grabbing a pair of back-to-back birdies on the par-3 5th and par-5 6th holes, and then picked up one last birdie on No. 8 to turn in 32.
Yang parred the first three holes of the back nine and then rattled off three straight birdies on Nos. 13, 14 and 15 to get to 20-under overall. She picked up one final birdie on the par-5 17th hole to post a flawless 64 and hold the 10th 54-hole lead/co-lead of her LPGA Tour career alongside Nasa Hataoka.
In the nine previous instances that Yang has held the lead through 54 holes, she has gone on to win three times, most recently doing so at the 2019 Honda LPGA Thailand. Her 54-hole total of 195 ties her career-low 54-hole score on the LPGA Tour, a personal record she set last week at The ANNIKA driven by Gainbridge at Pelican, and it’s the second consecutive week that she has opened with three straight rounds in the 60s. Today’s 64 is her sixth bogey-free round of the season, and Yang hasn’t made a bogey this week since the first hole on Thursday at Tiburón Golf Club. That 53-hole bogey-free streak is her second-longest on the LPGA Tour, 29 holes shy of the 82-hole bogey-free streak she had in 2018.
Yang can’t really put her finger on what mental switch has flipped recently that’s helped her play this good of golf. But her physical game is as sharp as it’s been in a long time, and the Republic of Korea native hopes to keep riding the momentum she generated in her second and third rounds on Sunday with a $2 million winner’s check on the line.
“I've been hitting the ball really solid and that really gave me lots of chances out there. My putting has been working so well, and just everything worked out together well,” said Yang, who hit 12 of 14 fairways and 16 of 18 greens on Saturday. “(I) feel quite nervous being in contention, but I never thought like I have to follow the 9-under par yesterday, because golf you never know. But I did try my best just to stay like present, and when I decide to hit one shot and just commit to it and go for it.”
This week at the CME Group Tour Championship marks Yang’s 11th start in the season-ending event, and in her 10 previous appearances, she has recorded three top-15 finishes, the best of which is a tie for seventh that came in 2015. This is her 20th tournament of the 2023 LPGA Tour season, and she has recorded four top-five finishes in her 19 prior starts, including two T4s at The Chevron Championship and the AIG Women’s Open. She also finished in a tie for third at the Meijer LPGA Classic for Simply Give and solo fourth at last week’s The ANNIKA driven by Gainbridge at Pelican.
Yang will be looking to pick up her first win on American soil and first win since the 2019 Honda LPGA Thailand on Sunday at Tiburón Golf Club. While every opportunity to contend is exciting, the opportunities she’s had to do so this season have meant even more for the 16-year LPGA Tour veteran as she has worked hard to battle back from a nearly career-ending elbow injury in recent seasons.
And with a fifth career LPGA Tour victory once again well within reach, Yang will surely keep that perspective in mind no matter what happens during the final round of the CME Group Tour Championship.
“I don't need to think about a lot of technical stuff or see where I am on the leaderboard or anything. Just to focus on what I have on each shot. That's all,” said Yang of her mental strategy. “When I first had tennis elbow on my left arm, I thought my career will be done very soon, so that wasn't very nice.
“I think I'm 100% fully back, so I'm just happy where I am.”