Paphangkorn steps closer to 1st Major title
Thailand’s Paphangkorn "Patty" Tavatanakit continued her seemingly easy week at the Dinah Shore Tournament Course, carding a 67 on Saturday to stay atop the ANA Inspiration leaderboard at -14 heading into Sunday’s final round. Tavatanakit, who holds the 54-hole lead for the first time in her LPGA Tour career, is five strokes ahead of defending champion Mirim Lee and LPGA Tour winner Ally Ewing, tied for second at -9.
ANA INSPIRATION LEADERBOARD
Tavatanakit, a 2020/21 LPGA Tour rookie, fired off three consecutive birdies in her first three holes, distancing herself from the surge of major champions and Tour winners lurking behind. The former UCLA All-American knew how crucial the fast start was toward building momentum.
“It's always nice to have a good start to feel a little bit more comfortable throughout the day. I was hitting it really good. I'm putting so well right now. Just really pleased with how everything played out,” said Tavatanakit, whose 202 ties the 54-hole scoring record set by eventual champion Pernilla Lindberg in 2018. “Obviously it was a little tough today, too, toward the end. It was hot. It was getting windy. Even though like I shot good scores, like the process was still a little bit challenging.”
Tavatanakit made the turn at -13, but as the temperatures rose, her game was challenged on her back nine. The Thai native and 2019 Symetra Tour Player of the Year carded three birdies and two bogeys in her final nine holes and said staying patient was the key to overcoming the day’s challenges.
“I play aggressive when I can be and you got to play smart golf. It's a major championship. It's pins are tough, tough conditions,” said Tavatanakit. “You’ve got to have the things you need to go out and execute and embrace all the challenges out there.”
A win tomorrow would make her the second Thai to lift up a Major's title after Ariya Jutanugarn at the 2016 Women's British Open. She will also become the fourth player to win wire-to-wire with no ties, and the first since Karrie Webb in 2000. Tavatanakit could become the first rookie to win the major championship since Juli Inkster in 1984 and the fourth consecutive player to win the ANA as her first major title. But after an exhausting day, she isn’t trying to overthink anything before Sunday’s final round.
“Today I'm going to leave it behind. It's a great day, acknowledged it, and it's in the past now. All I can think about is what can I do tomorrow, what can I improve from today's round? I was getting a little tired at the end. What can I do to keep my energy level up throughout the day tomorrow? That's going to be my goal,” said Tavatanakit. “And just stay calm out there. I feel like I did that pretty well. And just have the golf, so whatever the outcome is I'll be really happy. It's been a good week so far.”
Ewing will join Tavatanakit in the major’s final grouping after carding a third-round 66, her career-low round at the ANA Inspiration. The 28-year-old went bogey-free, recording six birdies, including three consecutive to start off her round on Nos. 1-3, just like Tavatanakit. Lee, who also sits at -9 alongside Ewing, said she’s been working on being more comfortable in her swing and was proud of her effort at Mission Hills Country Club.
“It just tough today. Weather is little hotter than yesterday and then course was difficult today. It's windy and then little firmer than yesterday. So, yeah, but I made good score today,” said Lee, who with a win would become just the second player to successfully defend at the ANA Inspiration, joining Annika Sorenstam (2001, 2002).
Tavatanakit’s playing partner on Saturday, major champion Shanshan Feng, shot even par on the day and sits in solo fourth at -8. Feng carded a lone birdie on No. 2, but bogeyed No. 13 to stay in contention.
“I think overall I did okay. I mean, I hit the balls very well. Only thing I was missing a little bit was my putting today. I was just struggling with the speed a little bit. But other than that, I think it was perfect,” said Feng. “I'm mentally very fresh, but I would say that I am a little more tired than the beginning of the week. But I'm very happy that I got three down and just one more to go. I think I still have enough energy for that.”
2013 ANA Inspiration champion Inbee Park and Charley Hull are in fifth at -7, with Gaby Lopez, Lydia Ko, Jin Young Ko and Moriya Jutanugarn rounding out the top-10 in a tie for seventh at -6.
WITH A WIN
Patty Tavatanakit would be the first rookie to win the ANA Inspiration since Juli Inkster in 1984
Tavatanakit would become the fourth wire-to-wire winner (no ties) and first since Karrie Webb in 2000
Tavatanakit would be the 14th different player in LPGA Tour history to win a major championship title as a rookie
Tavatanakit would become the first Rolex First-Time Winner of the 2021 season; she would be the sixth player to become a Rolex First-Time Winner at the ANA Inspiration
Tavatanakit, Ally Ewing or Charley Hull would be the 19th players to earn their first major title at the ANA Inspiration
Tavatanakit would become the second UCLA Bruin to ever win a major championship, joining Mo Martin (2014 AIG Women’s Open)
Ewing would earn her second-career Tour victory; she earned her first at the 2020 LPGA Drive On Championship – Reynolds Lake Oconee
Ewing would cross the $2 million mark in career earnings with the $465,000 winner’s check ($2377,768)
Ewing would be the first American to win a major since Angela Stanford won the 2018 Amundi Evian Championship
Mirim Lee would be the second player to defend her ANA Inspiration title, joining Annika Sorenstam (2001, 2002)
Lee or Inbee Park would become a two-time winner of the ANA Inspiration, joining seven other players as multiple winners of the major championship
Shanshan Feng would become a two-time major champion; she earned her first major title at the 2012 KPMG Women’s PGA Championship
Feng would earn her 11th LPGA Tour victory, and first since the 2019 Thornberry Creek LPGA Classic
With the $465,000 winner’s check, Feng would be projected to move up one spot to No. 11 on the Career Money List ($11,925,401)
Inbee Park would become the 19th player to win a major and the tournament before, and first since Lydia Ko in 2016 (Kia Classic, ANA Inspiration)
PATTY TAVATANAKIT, SHANSHAN FENG LEARN FROM EACH OTHER’S SUCCESS
Saturday’s final group had the unlikely duo of two-time major champion Shanshan Feng, kicking off her 14th season on the LPGA Tour, and Patty Tavatanakit, a second-year rookie looking for her first LPGA Tour title. At first glance, one would think that Feng might have schooled her younger competitor on the finer points of major competition. But instead, it was the veteran who looking to the newbie and the next generation of LPGA Tour players for a renewed sense of optimism as she competes for the first time since November 2019.
“I do think all the girls, they just improved a lot. They learned in the right ways, which maybe when we grew up we were still trying to find the right ways,” said Feng. “I think now they got everything together and they're so ready. I'm just so happy to see that, and I hope that now we have some very good talents from Thailand, Japan, Korea, America, and I hope to see our Chinese talents coming up.”
For her part, Tavatanakit relished every second inside the ropes with Feng, saying that she learned as much from her behavior as she did her game.
“It was really fun and relaxing. I feel like I really like her demeanor on the course, relaxed,” said Tavatanakit, who has never held the lead going into the final round of an LPGA Tour event. “I feel like that kind of helped me a little bit just be relaxed. It's a final group. Like it's a lot of pressure.”
Yes, this is a new level of pressure, leading at a major championship. But Tavatanakit is no stranger to the pressure that comes with holding a big lead. She carried a five-stroke lead into the final round of the Symetra Tour’s 2019 Danielle Downey Credit Union Classic, one of her three victories that season. And with seven more wins to her name during her two years at UCLA, the 21-year-old Thai is a prime candidate to make the leap into Poppie’s Pond come Sunday afternoon.
“I know it's going to be tough. If I'm going to be able to pull it out it's going to be tough,” said Tavatanakit. “I got to be ready for all the challenges out there, which I think my mentality was (ready to do). I was just like whatever it takes, just us give it to me. I'm ready to play.”
ALLY EWING MAKES BIGGEST MOVING DAY JUMP
Saturday’s lowest round belonged to Ally Ewing, who opened with three straight birdies and added in three more on the back nine for a 6-under 66. That career-low round on the Dinah Shore Tournament Course jumped the Mississippi native from a tie for 20th into a tie for second with defending champion Mirim Lee heading into Sunday’s final round of the ANA Inspiration.
“It was just kind of just a great day. I hit a lot of fairways, greens, which is crucial in a major, especially out here,” said Ewing, whose best ANA finish is a tie for sixth in 2019. “Even if I look back on my day, I missed several putts inside 10 feet. But, I mean, a 66 on Moving Day, certainly all you can ask for to put yourself in a good position for tomorrow.”
If Ewing were to emerge victorious on Sunday, she would become the 19th player to earn her first major title at the ANA Inspiration and the fourth consecutive, joining Pernilla Lindberg (2018), Jin Young Ko (2019) and Mirim Lee (2020). She would also become the first American major winner since Angela Stanford won the 2018 Amundi Evian Championship and the first major winner ever from Mississippi State University.
Ewing became a Rolex First-Time Winner at the 2020 LPGA Drive On Championship at Reynolds Lake Oconee, celebrating that first victory on her 28th birthday. With the win came confidence and experience that she plans to rely upon as she steps to the tee in Sunday’s final round with a major title on the line, playing in the final group alongside leader Patty Tavatanakit.
“To rely on something that you've done before I think is a very settling feeling,” said Ewing. “Certainly it's a major championship and it's a little bit different, but I think the biggest part for me when I got that win was the day before and the morning before I teed off every day, on Saturday, Sunday I had great conversations with my caddie and just making myself aware of the uncomfortability that I was going to feel and acknowledging that.
“If you try to brush it off and put it to the side, then you're not acknowledging the truth. So I'm going to go ahead and acknowledge that it's probably going to be tough tomorrow. I'm going to feel uncomfortable at times, but I'll embrace it and try to do the best I can.”
EUBANKS: FAST AND FURIOUS: KORDA AND LEWIS MAKE EARLY WAVES ON SATURDAY MORNING
The cutline was 1-over par, just about what was expected given the major-championship conditions of the Dinah Shore Tournament Course at Mission Hills. But what wasn’t expected was the fast and furious start a couple of players made in the warm morning hours on Saturday, long before the leaders teed off.
First came Jessica Korda. The winner of the Diamond Resorts Tournament of Champions was first player out. Because an odd number made the cut, Korda went out alone and played at a pace that would have made Old Tom Morris proud. From the first tee shot until the final putt, Korda took 2 hours and 53 minutes to shoot 68. And for a long time, it looked a lot better than that. The 28-year-old was 6-under par for the round through 17 holes, but a pushed tee shot into thick rough on 18, followed by a layup in a divot and a chunked wedge into the water, resulted in a double-bogey finish.
“After yesterday being really slow and waiting on just about every shot, this was really, really nice,” Korda said. “The way golf should be played.”
Speaking of how the game should be played, Stacy Lewis played 18 near-perfect holes in the middle of this championship. They just happened to be on the same nine holes.
Starting on the back nine on Friday, Lewis shot 38 and turned at plus-6 for the championship, well outside the cut line. Her parents, Dale and Carol, were already looking at change fees for their flight home when Stacy birdied No.1 (her 10th hole of the day). Late in the afternoon, Lewis rolled in a birdie at No. 9 to shoot 31 and make the cut on the number.
Back out on the front nine on Saturday morning, Lewis picked up where she left off. She made six birdies and no bogeys to shoot 30 – an unofficial 61 on the front nine. But the back bit her again. Lewis made triple-bogey on the par-3 14th and closed with a 37 for a respectable 67 on Saturday.
“I hit a lot of fairways, hit a lot of really good iron shots and I really didn't miss a golf shot until 14,” Lewis said. “So just hit it really solid and got the putter going late yesterday. But it’s pretty crazy. I mean, you add those two nines together and I shoot 61, so that’s pretty sweet.”
Rolex Rankings No. 103 Patty Tavatanakit (66-69-67)
- She hit 10 of 14 fairways and 14 of 18 greens, with 28 putts
- Her 202 is the lowest 54-hole score at her LPGA Tour career, besting the 203 she shot at the 2020 Walmart NW Arkansas Championship
- Her 202 ties the lowest 54-hole score in ANA Inspiration history, joining the mark set by Pernilla Lindberg in 2018
- Tavatanakit is a 2020/2021 LPGA Tour rookie; her career-best finish is a tie for fifth at the 2018 U.S. Women’s Open (as an amateur) and at the 2021 Gainbridge LPGA
- This is Tavatanakit’s fourth event of the 2021 LPGA Tour season; her best finish is a tie for fifth at the Gainbridge LPGA
- This is Tavatanakit’s fourth appearance in the ANA Inspiration; her best finish is a tie for 26th in 2019 as an amateur
- Named the 2019 Gaelle Truet Rookie of the Year on the Symetra Tour after a season where she took three victories
- Played collegiately at UCLA, where she was a seven-time winner and two-time WGCA First-Team All American
Rolex Rankings No. 34 Ally Ewing (71-70-66)
- She hit 11 of 14 fairways and 17 of 18 greens, with 30 putts
- Her 207 is her lowest 54-hole score at the ANA Inspiration, besting the 211 she shot in 2020
- This is Ewing’s sixth season on the LPGA Tour; she has one career victory, coming at the 2020 LPGA Drive On Championship at Reynolds Lake Oconee
- This is Ewing’s fifth event of the LPGA Tour season; her best finish is a tie for 15th at the Diamond Resorts Tournament of Champions
- This is Ewing’s fourth appearance in the ANA Inspiration; her best finish is a tie for sixth in 2019
- Member of the 2019 U.S. Solheim Cup Team, posting a 1-3-0 record
- Recorded five wins at Mississippi State University and holds almost every individual record in MSU history, including most rounds in the 60s and lowest stroke average
- Diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes in 2016
- Played on the boys golf team in high school as her school did not have a girls team; became the first girl to win the Mississippi boys state championship
- Married Charlie Ewing, who coaches the women’s golf team at Mississippi State University, in May 2020; previously played under her maiden name of McDonald
Rolex Rankings No. 31 Mirim Lee (69-70-68)
- She hit 10 of 14 fairways and 13 of 18 greens, with 27 putts
- This is Lee’s eighth season on the LPGA Tour; she has four career victories, including the 2020 ANA Inspiration
- This is Lee’s second event of the 2020 LPGA Tour season; she tied for 56th at last week’s Kia Classic
- This is Lee’s eighth appearance in the ANA Inspiration; she won the 2020 championship with a birdie on the first playoff hole for her first major victory
- Has three victories on the KLPGA Tour, coming at the 2013 KG-Edaily Ladies Open, 2012 Korean Women’s Open and 2011 S-OIL Champions
Rolex Rankings No. 35 Shanshan Feng (67-69-72)
- She hit 10 of 14 fairways and 13 of 18 greens, with 32 putts
- Her 208 ties her lowest 54-hole score at the ANA Inspiration, joining 2018
- This is Feng’s 14th season on the LPGA Tour; she has 10 career victories including a major title at the 2012 KPMG Women’s PGA Championship, with her most recent victory coming at the 2019 Thornberry Creek LPGA Classic
- This is Feng’s first LPGA Tour event since the 2019 CME Group Tour Championship; she remained home in China during the pandemic-shortened 2020 season
- This is Feng’s 11th appearance in the ANA Inspiration; she has two top-10 finishes, with a best finish of sixth in 2014
- Bronze medalist at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, representing the People’s Republic of China
- Became the first player from China, male or female, to be ranked No. 1 on Nov. 13, 2017; held the position for 23 weeks
- Started the Shanshan Feng Golf Academy in 2017, to provide opportunity for Chinese children to learn the game