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Pattty keeps Thai flag flying high at Gainbridge LPGA

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Patty Tavatanakit emerged a strong contender in the Gainbridge LPGA after she fired a third round 66 to trail American leader Nelly Korda by a stroke in Orlando on Saturday.

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The 21-year-old Patty, or Paphangkorn,produced seven birdies (three straight on the last three holes) to enter the final round with 12 under-par-204. The 2020/21 LPGA Tour rookie took full advantage of moving day to shoot a 66.

“I was driving the ball pretty well. Hit it pretty well. Felt a little slow in the start. My body wasn't feeling the best in the morning, but hung in there and got through it and just keep my head down, just kept playing golf,” said Tavatanakit, who closed with four birdies on her last five holes. “My confidence just boosts up a lot during off-season, and then coming back with three good rounds it's just -- I'm just really comfortable. Not like over-confident but I know it's golf. It's a hard game. There is still a lot out there tomorrow. Just going to do the same thing.”

 Korda had never played Lake Nona Golf & Country Club before this week. After three rounds, she compared it to her home course, Concession, where the PGA Tour is playing this week. Despite a bit of unfamiliarity, Korda cruised through to the top of the leaderboard, finishing day three with a 68 and overall at -13, and giving herself something to celebrate along with her sister Jessica’s birthday at the Gainbridge LPGA.

“The greens are really undulated. Completely different grass. I don't know what they overseed here with, but it has to be a bit of po and bent around the greens, which is very unusual for Florida, especially like the rough. But I really like it,” said Korda. “It's a very pretty golf course and hopefully treats my right tomorrow.”

Korda started the first six holes with pars, then carded two birdies on No. 7 and 9 before the turn. “I made a long one on I think No. 7. Thank God I hit the hole, because that was coming in at a pretty hot pace,” said Korda, who measured out the putt to be about 25-30 feet and straight downhill. “No. 9 I just hit my drive really well and I had a 6-iron in so I just two-putted and made birdie.”

The 22-year-old went on to record three more birdies on the back nine and a bogey on No. 13. Though trading the top spot with 36-hole leader Lydia Ko for most of the day, Korda said she feels confident heading into the final day.

“Any time you can get ahead of the pack going into Sunday is a positive,” said Korda, who is going for her fourth career Tour victory and the first on American soil. There are some good players there, so it'll take good golf to win.”

An unfortunate double-bogey at No. 12 along with bogeys on No. 6 and 18 contributed to Lydia Ko falling from the second-round lead and in a tie for third along with World No. 1 Jin Young Ko and Angel Yin at -10.

“I felt like it could have been a little bit better. Had pretty much one bad hole, but other than that I felt like I played pretty solid. Wish more putts could have dropped, but it's going to be -- it's pretty tough out there, so hopefully just be able to keep playing solid and give myself good opportunities tomorrow,” said Ko. “I think I just got to focus on my game, play the best golf I can, and see where that puts me. There are so many players playing really well, so I think it's just important not to get caught up in what everybody else is doing and just do a good job focusing on me and the shot that I have in front of me.”

 

LPGA Tour winners Lexi Thompson and Chella Choi lurk in a tie for sixth at -9, with major champions Brooke Henderson and In Gee Chun along with Monday Qualifier Marissa Steen stay steady at -8 in a tie for eighth. Annika Sorenstam, playing a third round at a Tour event for the first time 13 years, struggled with her shots today, carding a 79 and in 74th place.

 

“it was a hard day at the office, as they would say. Just didn't happen at all today. I was trying really hard but just short-sided myself on a lot of holes,” said Sorenstam. “But I must say I think the course was set up really fun today. I really enjoyed the way they moved up 4. I really enjoy some of the fun pin placements, but it was tricky. I just didn't hit it solid or straight enough to be able to have a chance for some birdies. It was a rough day, but happy to be here, happy to be playing and just kind of hang in there.”

WITH A WIN

Nelly KordaAngel Yin, or Lexi Thompson would be the second players from the United States to win in 2021, joining Jessica Korda (Diamond Resorts Tournament of Champions)

The Kordas would join Annika and Charlotta Sorenstam as sisters to win consecutive events on the LPGA Tour; Annika won the Welch’s/Circle K Championship on March 13, 2000 and Charlotta won the Standard Register PING on March 19, 2000

Korda would earn her four Tour victory and her first on home soil

Korda would surpass the $4 million career earnings mark with the $300,000 winner’s prize

Yin or Patty Tavatanakit would become the first Rolex First-Time Winners of 2021

Lydia Ko would earn her 16th Tour win, and first since the 2018 MEDIHEAL LPGA Championship

Ko would cross the $11 million mark in career earnings ($11,100,325) and move to 14th on the Career Money List, passing Na Yeon Choi

Jin Young Ko would be the first to win in consecutive Tour appearances since Sei Young Kim in 2020, when she won the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship and then the Pelican Women’s Championship; Ko won in her last start, the 2020 CME Group Tour Championship

 

ANGEL YIN PLAYING THROUGH THE PAIN WITH SOLID ROUND AT NONA

Angel Yin is a different Angel than a year ago. At the Tour’s restart in Toledo in 2020 at the Drive On Championship – Inverness Club, she said she started feeling tight, feeling immeasurable pain then at the AIG Women’s Open a few weeks later. After seeing specialists, it was determined to be due to nerve pain in her left shoulder.

“At the worse point, it was hard for me to open a water bottle. I couldn’t drive with my left hand,” said Yin. A natural with the driver, Yin, who averaged 277.50 yards in 2019, said last year she left her treasured club in the bag more times than none. “If you look at the stats last year I was really low in driving distance. It was just because I really couldn't hit. I think my 7-iron, which usually carries around 155, went sometimes go 145. It was like a big impact on me mentally to think about I'm hitting it so short,” said Yin. “Like when I have a distance and I'm using the full 6-iron I go a club lower because I just physically couldn't hit it that hard.”

Fast forward to her first event of the 2021 season. With a clearer mindset and more of a handle on her injury, Yin recorded a 7-under 65 to sit in a tie for third at the Gainbridge LPGA along with World No. 1 Jin Young Ko and 15-time Tour winner Lydia Ko at -10. It’s her lowest 18-hole score since the second round of last year’s event in Boca Raton, one off her career-low, a 64 at the 2018 Indy Women in Tech Championship.

The 22-year-old started slow with only one birdie on her front nine on No. 7, but made the turn and fired five birdies, an eagle on the day’s drivable par-4 14th and a lone bogey on No. 17.

“When I hit a shot it still hurts, especially driver. And to shoot 7-under it just feels really good because I wasn't able to do that in a while. Even though I knew where my game was, the pain was overshadowing everything,” said Yin. “I would say my putts started going in. It wasn't like I was reading putts bad, but all my putts yesterday and the day before just kind of missed a little bit, including the front nine. And then on the back nine just started rolling in, and then with that momentum I was able to hit it closer and just things just started happening. I didn't really know what happened. I kind of blacked out. And then I woke up with my bogey, and then was like, okay, let me make another birdie to finish.”

Yin said she was grateful for today’s round as the confidence booster she’s been looking for. All in all, she’s happy to grow from her injury as she goes for her first victory on the LPGA Tour.

“I think this injury saved my career. I learned how to hit a cut which I didn't really know how to do. I noticed that my swing wasn't right. I was always a swinger and I became a hitter out of nowhere. I think that is what really causes harm on my left shoulder. So I changed my swing, worked on it nonstop for two weeks back I was back in L.A. and worked out a little bit, and I think it's good,” said Yin. “I would say I'm more like when I was younger, back to when I was younger playing style and swing. Going backwards in life.”

JIN YOUNG KO EARNS HER DINNER AND T3 FINISH AFTER DAY THREE AT LAKE NONA

All it took for World No. 1 Young Ko to jump up 13 spots to tie for third ahead of the final round at Gainbridge LPGA at Lake Nona Golf & Country Club was a bet with her caddie to shoot 4-under or better. Loser would have to buy dinner.

“Because I had good motivation than the day before,” said Ko, who recorded a third-round 66. “My caddie, he wanted to bet me about dinner tonight, so I won and he has to bring me take-out food to my room.”

Though the bet was enough to get Ko focused on the third day and within three strokes of the leader, what also helped was convening with putting coach Gareth the evening before.

“We have been working together since three years so he knows me really well. I need him,” said Ko of her putting coach who gave her some good advice. “I didn't connect to my arms and body during my putting stroke, so I fixed a little bit to connect a bit more of my arms with my body.”

MONDAY QUALIFER MARISSA STEEN TAKING IT ALL IN AT GAINBRIDGE

Marissa Steen asked her friend from Orlando to caddie for her at the Gainbridge LPGA Monday Qualifier. He said yes, but couldn’t help if she made it through to the tournament. But, after a 67, Steen made it through easily as the top spot in the Monday event, and after the way she played, he said he was in for the long haul. One COVID-19 test and a negative result, and she was preparing for the tournament ahead of her. Three rounds later, Steen put together a 68 on Saturday to head into the final day in a tie for eighth with Brooke Henderson and In Gee Chun at -8.

 

“It's been kind of a whirlwind. Been a really busy week obviously. But I think the course fits my game really well. I've played it once before this week a couple years ago and always really liked it. I always know it's this great condition,” said Steen, “I feel like really the big difference between the first round, today, and then yesterday was I just made a lot more putts. Yesterday I was all around the hole and just really didn't get them to drop. Was just a little bit off here it there. I can't telling Oren, ‘We're putting good rolls on it. It's going to be okay. We're doing good stuff.”

A rookie in 2015, Steen’s life has changed in the past couple of months since the end of the 2020 season, and it’s put her golfing career in a whole new light. While she enjoys being in contention at Lake Nona Golf and Country Club, she said there’s more to life than a good golf score.

“I did work a lot with my swing coach, but I think there was -- so actually had someone pretty close to me pass away. Actually my boyfriend's brother passed away in a car wreck just before Christmas. That put everything in perspective for me. It really -- I'm getting cold chills,” said Steen, who also said the brother was a habitual golfer and a friend on the course. “It really just made my realize that golf isn't -- I love it. It just put things in perspective. It's not the end of the world if I shoot a bad round or miss a cut. Like I said, I've just been playing very freely.”

Published : February 27, 2021