Anna Nordqvist fires 61, leads by two in Phoenix

By Mike Tulumello, The Sports Xchange  |  March 19, 2017 at 11:43 AM
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PHOENIX -- Anna Nordqvist grew up in Sweden and lives in Florida. But right now, Arizona feels like home.

Nordqvist shot a course-record 61 on Saturday to take a two-shot lead into the final round of the Bank of Hope Founders Cup at JW Marriott Desert Ridge.

Nordqvist played collegiately at nearby Arizona State and said she feels a strong connection to the Valley of the Sun, thanks to local support from friends, the ASU golf team and sponsors.

"They say home is where the heart is," said Nordqvist, a six-time winner on the LPGA Tour.

"My heart is definitely still here. I always say I'm a West coast girl."

Nordqvist is at 21-under, two shots better than Ariya Jutanugarn and Stacy Lewis, who shot identical scores for the third straight day while being paired together (66 on Saturday).

Lewis missed birdie chances on two par 5s on the back nine, but birdied two of the final three holes.

"With the way this golf course is playing, two back is not a big deal," Lewis said.

Looking ahead to Sunday, she said, "You gotta go make birdies. I don't think 5-or-6 under is going to cut it.

"It's a shootout. Somebody is going to go shoot 8-or-9 under and win this thing. It might as well be me."

Jutanugarn shot her third straight bogey-free round, but said she didn't realize this feat.

"I just really like the course. The course is not that easy. Some of the holes are pretty challenging for me."

So Yeon Ryu is at 18-under, one shot better than Angel Yin and In Gee Chun.

Nordqvist came up with nine birdies plus an eagle at the par-5 No. 11 to go with eight pars.

On remarkable days like this one, "Golf seems very easy,'' Nordqvist said. "But I appreciate every time these days show up. I try to keep my best foot forward and hopefully this isn't my last one this year."

Nordqvist almost shot 60.

On the 18th hole, her approach shot went farther left than she wanted and bounced behind the green and down toward the grandstand. But she got a favorable drop and a putt of about 40 feet.

"I hit it really good. Straight off the bat, it was a good pace ... Three or four feet out it looked really good."

The putt barely trickled left of the hole. "I thought I had it. But I still shot 61."

World No. 1 Lydia Ko jumped into contention at 16-under by firing a 63 that concluded with six straight birdies.

She also made a big par save by holing a 12-footer at No. 12.

But most of the time, her approach shots were close enough to give her great birdie chances.

"I don't know if I've had that string of birdies ever before," Ko said. "I just hit it really close."

She correctly predicted that even at 16-under par, "I'm still going to be four or five shots behind with how well the girls are playing. So, I think I need a super low one tomorrow to be at the top."

Also at 16-under is Inbee Park, who shot 67.

Nelly Korda shot 64 and also sits at 16-under, three shots better than her sister Jessica.

Michelle Wie, who was one shot off the lead after two rounds, shot even-par 72 and dropped off the leaderboard at 12-under.

NOTES: About a dozen protestors from a women's group called UltraViolet demonstrated briefly outside the tournament's entrance. They were urging the LPGA to sever ties with President Trump by moving the 2017 U.S Women's Open from Trump's Bedminster Golf Course in New Jersey. They were asked to leave the JW Marriott property and did so without incident. Late in the day, an airplane circled the course, dragging a sign reading: "LPGA: TAKE A MULLIGAN, DUMP SEXIST TRUMP."... Perhaps the tournament's most inspirational story belongs to Kaylin Yost of Maryland. She was born with dislocated hips, underwent two major operations and had to have a full body cast for 16 months. In addition, at two years old, she was found to be hearing impaired and has worn hearing aids ever since. She will be representing the USA at the Deaf Olympics this summer. She made the cut Friday, though she shot 75 on Saturday and is 3-under for the tournament. "I didn't have any putts drop today," she lamented. ... Nordqvist's round set records for the course and tournament, and her 21-under 195 is the lowest ever through three rounds at the tournament. ... Nordqvist is in Sunday's final pairing with Jutanugarn.

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