NAPLES, Fla. – The battle for the Rolex Player of the Year is going down to the final round of the LPGA Tour season.
So is $1.5 million to the winner after four players ended the third round of the CME Group Tour Championship tied for the lead at Tiburón Golf Club at the Ritz-Carlton Golf Resort on Saturday.
Nelly Korda and Jin Young Ko are part of that tie, and the only two who can win the Player of the Year title.
Second-round leader Celine Boutier and Nasa Hataoka, who fired a final-nine 29 to shoot an 8-under 64 and vault up the leaderboard, are there with Korda and Ko.
Ko did her own vaulting, draining seven straight birdies on the front nine before a three-putt on No. 9 led to a bogey, and then nine straight pars on the back.
“It was really fun to play seven in a row birdies,” she said. “I was feeling I can make every putt on front nine.”
“I did see some bombs drop, but, I mean, that’s normal for Jin Young,” said Korda, who was playing in the group behind her.
Jin Young Ko plays the third round of the CME Group Tour Championship at Ritz Carlton Golf Resort , Tiburon Golf Club in Naples on Saturday, Nov. 20, 2021. She was tied for the lead with several other players.
Ko said she is still feeling some pain in her left wrist, but took some medication and has had it taped this week. She has not had an MRI on it, but plans on doing so when she gets back to South Korea. Ko isn’t hitting a club more or something like that because of the wrist, but she is trying to avoid hitting shots into the green.
“I had to more like stiff to impact so it’s going to be more hard and pained here,” Ko said. “So I was look where is the down grain from the fairway from the tee shot, and then I had — hitting the down grain to down grain, not into grain, because I really want to keep my wrist here.”
Korda didn’t do much early, bogeyed No. 12 to fall back, but birdied No. 14, and then made a big move with a short eagle putt on No. 17 after sticking a 9-iron from 145 yards.
“It was so downwind and I hit it perfectly,” Korda said.
Korda’s bogey on No. 12 occurred after she hit her shot left on the par-3 and was on some pine straw. As she set up to hit the shot, she said the ball moved, then came back to its original position. She called a rules official over, and video was reviewed, determining there would be no penalty. Korda hit her next shot a few feet past the hole, but missed the par putt.
“That situation on the par-3 kind of scared me a little,” she said.
Hataoka captured Ko’s front-nine magic on her back nine, rattling off seven birdies, including the final five holes.
“The first nine I wasn’t really stroking my putt really well, but I was patient with that,” she said. “I was more focused with my routine this week, which kind of helped my game today, this week.”
Gaby Lopez had a three-hole finish as turbulent as the windy conditions, and is a stroke behind along with Mina Harigae.
Gaby Lopez of Mexico putts on the 18th green during the third round of the CME Group Tour Championship at Tiburon Golf on November 20, 2021 in Naples, Florida. (Photo by Douglas P. DeFelice/Getty Images)
Lopez put her shot on the par-3 16th into the water and made a double-bogey, but got both shots back with an eagle on No. 17 capped by a huge fist pump. But she gave another back on No. 18 that actually could have been worse, after hitting her second shot in the water. She made a 5-footer to save bogey.
“I had just terrible swing on 16 and that got me in trouble,” Lopez said. “I took a double bogey out of there, and I was still calm after that. I know I was hitting the right shots and I was playing the way I wanted.
“I came to 17 and I hit a beautiful drive, beautiful 5-iron, and it happened to go in. I tried to stay calm all day long. I tried to stay calm throughout the tournament. Sometimes when I bring this emotion I just can’t stop it. I feel that I dragged it into 18. It was hard to keep it together. But at the same time, it’s something that I love from my game, something I embrace so much.”
Boutier wasn’t hitting her approach shots as close as she was in her back-to-back 65s that broke the tournament’s 36-hole scoring record. She dropped out of the lead with bogeys on Nos. 12 and 16 — both par 3s — but bounced back with a birdie on No. 17.
“It was pretty tough out there,” she said. “I feel like I didn’t hit it as well as the past two days. I did struggle to make some birdies.
“I mean, it was quite windy, but I was a little bit unsatisfied with my putting.”
Lexi Thompson, who also bogeyed No. 18, Leona Maguire, and Nanna Koerstz Madsen are all just two behind with 18 holes remaining in the season.
The field faced more wind Saturday than it did Friday, but they weren’t playing preferred lies in the third round after doing so for the first two. The wind picked up as the afternoon went on, and a brief squall of rain added to the challenge.
Ko and Korda are in the same final group, along with Hataoka, so they can finish off their battle head-to-head.
“It’s for other people,” said Korda, who also is going for back-to-back victories. I’m just out there going to do my job, taking a shot at a time, and see where it takes me. That’s all you can do.
“That’s the attitude I put into it. Obviously there is weeks that are easier than other, but that’s the attitude I try to take into every week.”
“It’s tough to say that, but, yeah, I have to win because she plays really well right now,” Ko said. “So I don’t have stress for the Player of the Year.”
Greg Hardwig is a sports reporter for the Naples Daily News and The News-Press. Follow him on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter: @NDN_Ghardwig, email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Support local journalism with this special subscription offer at https://cm.naplesnews.com/specialoffer/
Source : https://news.yahoo.com/nelly-korda-jin-young-ko-002430742.html1411